‘Never fall in love with your disease’~Luis Gaviero
I used to joke that education is expensive, thinking of the high price we have to pay for some lessons rather than the cost of schooling. Whether it is a relationship that turns sour, or an adventure that puts us behind bars, it may be hard at first to recognize the benefits of the experience. If we are lucky, despite the expense, there are the extras that come with the tears such as children, memories, new friends.
Formal education should also be an opportunity for growth. If we see it purely as a means to an end, we miss out on the gifts of knowledge that can expand our minds along with our possibilities. Too often we see students focused on ‘getting through’ school. They are totally oblivious to the point of education: to gain understanding, awareness and expertise. Somehow they think it is time to be passed, not wisdom that has to be attained.
I love it when I receive gifts of little messages, the insights shared among friends that sound like little stories, and yet have profound significance. The quote I wrote at the top of this message was told to me by the son of Mr. Gaviero. His father was born with a defective heart, one which sat on the wrong side of his chest cavity. He was not supposed to survive, yet lived to be eighty. His own son was diagnosed with a spine defect as a teenager, and this was when Mr. Gaviero senior told him: “Never fall in love with your disease.” When I heard that I was struck by how many of us fall in love with some unhealthy aspect of ourselves, and cannot move beyond that spot. It fills our head and blocks us from moving forward. We look at life from the perspective of our disease, our illness, instead of making it just one part of who we are.
Sometimes we receive messages in our dreams. Unfortunately they fly away like wisps of mist burnt up by the morning sun. But there are messages everywhere, if only we open our minds. I have a girlfriend who often complains, ‘OK, God, I get it, I need to learn patience! How many more times do you have to try to teach me?’
But we also have to beware of over-reading into things, becoming overcautious, afraid to try new things. In high school in Jamaica, we used to have a school bus-driver who we affectionately called ‘Careful’. And because we had manners, to his face we would call him ‘Mr. Careful’! The story went that he was such a cautious driver, when he came to a bend in the road, he would stop the vehicle, get out, and go and look around the corner to see if anything was coming! If you have ever driven on a country road in Jamaica, you can imagine that you would never reach your destination before dark!
Having an open mind, being receptive to messages, allows you to become more aware of the world and those who are travelling with you. When my kids were teenagers I was busy working the night shift. It was easy to miss the signs, to know what was going on in their lives. I remember the tragedy of a young suicide victim who came into the ER. His mother was of course inconsolable. What broke my heart was when I heard her say ‘He told me he wanted to talk to me, but I was too busy’. Are there signs you may be missing because you are too busy, too caught up in your own stresses and strains? The teenage years are tough, especially in this country where the village minds its own business. Keeping the lines of communication open is the key to hearing the messages of distress. This week we heard of a twelve year old girl who committed suicide after being harassed and bullied over social media. Surely that could have been averted.
We are so advanced technologically that our thoughts can be sent around the world before we have finished thinking them. This means we have to be so much more careful, more mindful of the phrases we choose. Tone, emphasis, humor, all of these aspects of speech are lost in the written word, especially if confined to 140 characters! If your words are misconstrued in conversation you have an opportunity to correct. When read by thousands on facebook they take on a life of their own.
This Friday morning I hope you will pay attention to the messages and signs around you. You may see the appreciation in the face of another; the confirmation that you are doing the right thing; the encouragement to take a step that has been scaring you. At the same time, think about the messages you are sending to others. Are they what you intended? Perhaps a pause and a breath before you speak or hit send could avoid misunderstanding.
Have a wonderful Friday, family, and a fantastic weekend. And as my grandson would say: “Pay ‘tention!”