“I have learned silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet, strange, I am ungrateful to those teachers”~Khalil Gibran.
The older we get, the harder it is to be fed a line. We have grown from being idealists to being cynics. When someone pays us a compliment we may wonder what they want. Yet one of the truths that we have to accept is that life is fragile, and we must grasp opportunities when they arise, for they may not come back around again. My generation did not grow up hearing the ‘Love you’s that abound today. It was supposed to be accepted; of course your parents loved you. It was like the silent ‘k’ in know – you always knew it was there. And yet. And yet we sometimes need to hear it. More than that, we do not want to have someone disappear and wonder if we told them all that we needed to say. Did they really know how much they were loved and appreciated? Did they have any idea how much they would be missed when they were gone?
One of the rewards of the teaching profession is the ability to make an impact on untold lives. For if you do your job well, lessons taught will move way beyond the individual sitting in your classroom. But you don’t have to have the title of teacher to have an impact. Nor does it have to have a huge impact. All we need to imagine is a pebble dropping into a calm pond, and seeing those ripples spread outwards, each wave stimulating the next and on and on.
Thanks to cable TV and the internet, some images may be burned onto our retinas, and then will be shown over and over again. Thanks to the now ubiquitous cameras, we can record and save images and videos to be able to recall precious moments, even when our own memories are fading. Where we once wrote the sweet or clever quotes of our kids in diaries and calendars, we now broadcast them to the world via social media.
I have had too many occasions recently to reflect on the impact that others have had on my life. And I was thinking that much as a message needs both a sender and a receiver in order to be complete, there need to be those who are ready to be impacted. Have you ever met the right person at just the right time? Read a book that seemed to resonate with you it was as if it was written for you? As much as we should recognize that we can make a difference in the world, we need to be open to the possibility that others can make a difference in us. But it can only happen if we are open, willing to hear the message, to learn the lesson. When we think we know it all we are at our most dangerous.
Nursing students (if they are wise) get very nervous as they get close to graduating. They suddenly realize after all these months of studying and preparing, that they know nothing! And will soon be holding the lives of others in their hands. The scariest ones are the ones who are sure they know it all, who speak with an assured self-confidence. Unfortunately life will provide reminders that we have never finished learning, but at whose expense? As my father-in-law would warn: ‘Those who won’t hear, will feel’!!
I know that I have often learnt my most powerful lessons after being overconfident, after quietly congratulating myself for some talent I thought I had. And so it is good to remember a line from one of my father’s favorite passages, one which is just as pertinent at weddings and funerals: Love is patient, love is kind, and the best part: is not puffed up. For those who have cameras on them, or who are in the public eye, those painful lessons can be embarrassing and permanently on record! The Olympic goalkeeper who posted a photo of herself in full mosquito proof gear (including hat with netting) is now hearing chants of ‘Zika’ from the crowds whenever she kicks the ball!
Our potential to influence others is huge. But with that potential should come a conscience, the responsibility to recognize that words, like actions, have consequences. Those ripples can cause pain and anguish as they spread. The current level of hateful rhetoric which is to be heard daily on the TV is carried worldwide, and has the potential to alienate and disenfranchise countless numbers of people who are already experiencing the harsh reality of a dangerous world.
And so on this Friday morning in an interesting world, we are reminded to think about our impact on others, and on the generations to come. We don’t have to be famous, or receive noble awards to have far reaching influence. We may not even hear how a word or an action made a difference in the life of another. We may walk through the world unaware of the way others think about us. And there are the words of Mother Theresa who said: “The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; do good anyway.” And be open to the lessons that you may learn from others, even those who annoy you or upset you, those may be the lessons that you need to learn the most.
Have a wonderful weekend Family!