“Every book you pick up has its own lesson or lessons,
and quite often the bad books have more to teach than the good ones.” ~Stephen King
I had an ‘a-ha’ moment while ironing the other day. It is not like I spend a great deal of time ironing – it is a chore that I perform on an as-needed basis. But I suddenly realized the correct answer to a question I was asked in a physics O’Level exam (a British system of assessing high school students) over 40 years ago. In those days everything was essay-type questions, no multiple choice for us. And the question had something to do with the ways an iron lost energy. At the time I could not figure out what the answer was, and I waffled on, writing about the noise an iron makes (huh?) so you lose energy through sound. I was quite lost. So over 40 years later I figured it out! They were looking for the different ways that heat is lost through conduction, convection, radiation and evaporation. And that is a concept I have taught many times to nursing students, as we use that knowledge to help cool down patients with a fever! So obvious, 40 years later!
Have you ever come across a book that really seemed to speak to you, that the messages rang true and helped you to sort through some pressing problem? If only you had read this book decades earlier, how might your life have been easier if you had read this book before? And then one day you stumble upon the same book already on your book shelf. Some lessons come to us when we are ready and open to receive them. When you are not in the right place, the words will not resonate.
At times we get frustrated when others do not seem to respond to our strongly held beliefs. We think that through the power of our words we can convince them of something we think is crucial. We can just see how much they would benefit from our telling them this brilliant fact, this important piece of advice. And then our feelings are hurt when they don’t immediately accept it, and appreciate it, and tell us how wonderful we are for showing them the light. Yes, there is often a lot of ego wrapped up in our desire to ‘help’ others. And although it may be good to share, maybe we are coming from a place of good intention; but we have to accept that perhaps the time is not right. Or perhaps what seems true and significant to us does not have the same meaning to others.
Teachers, like parents, have to learn the hard way, that it may be years before a student or a child says the words we long to hear ‘you were right’. We pray for our kids to have kids, mostly so we can say ‘now you know what it is like’. But we may never hear those words, may never get that satisfaction. And we have to go back to believing that we did the best we could, and that should be enough.
But one of life’s sweet ironies, if we are open, is to learn that it is when we least expect it we can be on the receiving end of life’s great lessons. It may be when we think we are expert in a subject that we are surprised by how little we know. I once received a lesson in a challenging nursing theory from a nursing student. Martha Rogers was way ahead of her time, a nurse scientist who wrote of humans as being open systems, whose energy fields interact with each other. So a nurse interacts with a patient as soon as she/he enters a room. And that can be as healing or as harmful as any medical interventions. But when I first read Rogers, I could not relate. It was my student, a middle-aged former truck driver who searched and read and researched until he managed to grasp the essence of Rogers’ writings, and presented them in class. He related her work to such healing modalities as Reiki and Therapeutic Touch. Like acupuncture and acupressure, these techniques acknowledge the flow of energy through the body. As I listened to my student, I was a little jealous. He got it! But I also recognized that we have to stay open and ready for life’s lessons, for they may come from unexpected sources.
There are times we hold on so tight to our hard held beliefs that we are blind to other points of view. We can be rigid in our thinking, believing that there is only one way to see something. It may be that when we relax, when we try out another person’s suggestion that we learn a new trick. Perhaps there is someone who plays too much that can teach us to laugh at ourselves, to not take life so seriously. Perhaps there is someone who walks, drives, thinks at a slower pace than us who can teach us to slow down and smell the roses.
Lessons and messages may appear when we least expect them, from unanticipated sources. And when we are not busy fighting, a light may go off and we gain clarity on some issue that has been eluding us for a long time. And even if the messenger does not look like an angel, it may not seem to be a sign from God, it may be just the sign we need at exactly the right time.
This Friday morning I hope we can stay open to the hints and clues that may appear in our life. And when we recognize them, we must give thanks and acknowledge the special blessings that show up when we least expect them. Have a wonderful weekend, Family!