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Loyalty

Because we are constantly inundated with information on our various devices, we have become somewhat desensitized to a great deal of it. I’m not sure what the number is for the amount of data we can incorporate at any given moment, hour, day or otherwise. But when something is extraordinary, I am grateful for the ability to view something that wasn’t filtered.

Today I saw a brief clip that was untitled but as poignant a piece as I can remember seeing. It was a video of a severely disabled gentleman who was walking slowly with a cane, his dachshund by his side. The dog would take several steps, wait for his owner to catch up to him and resume his walk.

Over six million people had viewed this video by the time I did but I elected not to read the comments from any of them. The word “loyalty” was noted but my reaction and subsequent thoughts made this title somewhat inadequate.

My choice is to accept and treasure this two minutes as a moment of love, patience, understanding and beauty. Clearly, Fido was committed to his master, regardless of the speed with which he moved. And I can only imagine the feelings that the man had for his short friend who followed wherever he led.

If I am fortunate enough to see this type of devotion once in a week, a month, a year or a decade, I am grateful. Perhaps my eternal fear of losing my own mobility causes me to be touched by this gentleman’s fortitude. There’s no doubt that I’m a sucker for cute dog videos.

But this short piece of humanity displays the type of unconditional love that I treasure. If I have proven this level of caring for another human in my life, I am grateful. If we have evidence of what’s possible between other creatures on the planet that we occupy, so much the better. Shalom.

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Veterans Day thanks

While I never had an opportunity to serve my country in one of our branches of service, I have immense respect for those who do and did. My fellow Americans join me today in expressing our appreciation for your sacrifices and dedication.

Thankfully, I was honored to carry the title of Navy wife for a number of years. During that time, I became aware of the complete commitment associated with faithfully serving our country.  All of the activities in which I participated or that I witnessed made a profound impact on my love of country.

In addition to your monumental acts of heroism on the battlefields, oceans and in the sky, you give much more. We understand the missed births and birthdays of your children, the wedding anniversaries and the daily events that your wives, husbands and children must survive or endure without you.

Thank you for all that you have done, all that you have given and all the sacrifices large and small that you gladly made. Your country celebrates your bravery, conviction and courage and we shall never forget all that you have done to ensure our freedom. Shalom.

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Never give up

A young man was attempting to push a less than sturdy cart containing far too many packages of bottled water. While I admired his courage, I wondered at the wisdom of transporting many items that were precariously balanced. We were at Burbank airport with quite a few passengers coming and going to gates but everyone stayed out of his path.

As I feared, at one point six or eight of these bundles escaped the tower of water. They landed on all sides of his cart, causing the young man to mutter and shake his head.

Within seconds, four sturdy men jumped up and began assisting him with reloading and steadying his cart. Although I admit to thinking about joining them, their bulk and apparent competence with the situation persuaded me to refrain.

The more I watched, the better I felt about people and their uncomplicated desires to help each other. Sadly, I wouldn’t have been surprised if no-one had offered help. But they did, quickly and cheerfully, wishing the young man good luck as he slowly left the area.

One of my frequent statements to students is, “Never give up.” This usually refers to math, social studies or writing. But I’m well-advised to heed my own words with regard to humanity. If I ever stop believing in man’s propensity to do good, I’ll grab a water bottle and reconsider. Shalom.

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A good question

Is it time for lunch? What do we do now? What kind of dog is your favorite? What is your favorite color? How long have you been teaching? How many of the math problems do we need to do? Do you like to teach?

These are the types of questions that I am asked on a daily basis. Some of them are practical – may I use the restroom? Some are driven by the need for consistency that I observe in most students. And a few are asked simply because of a need for attention.

But I interpret questions as my tools for developing patience. We are all practiced at patience on one level or another. It can be learned at the time of childbirth, driving during rush hour and waiting for college acceptance letters.

This is an entirely different level. As classroom role models, we can’t throw tantrums, threaten to strangle or promise a very short tenure in elementary school.

Each day, I have new and potentially more challenging opportunities to achieve mastery. When I explain a lesson and steps to be taken on an assignment for the thirty-fifth time, one student will inevitably ask what she should do. My alternatives are to implode or quickly remind myself that she has a form of learning impairment.

I’m happy to report that I have one additional option. In many cases, students ask questions as a means to become closer to the person imparting wisdom or guidance. If telling my kids that I love teal blue helps them feel trustworthy, engaged or intrigued, it’s a very small price to pay. Shalom.

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A frog and a friend

It was another of those third-grade days. We did math, reading, P.E., writing and some laptop spelling and word recognition. Recess was warmer than we would have liked and I observed considerable fidgeting as the end of the day was near.

Thankfully, I had an educator light bulb and advised my class to store their math notebooks and await further instructions. Once I made some 5”x7” foam sheets, curling ribbon, hot air balloon and tiny sea-life stickers available, the classroom mood was elevated and energized. Eventually, some paper butterflies, crowns and frogs also emerged from my magic bag.

One young man who sits near my desk was quickly transformed into an artist, confidant and dream analyst. From the instant that materials were within reach, he constructed a diorama of a dream that included a royal frog who presided over his lily pad and other creatures within his soggy realm.

What a fortunate situation that he had the tools with which to depict his fantasy! As a witness to the event, I had the additional joy of observing him develop the project with commentary, the most important of which was his hopes that his family liked what he did.

He bounced back and forth from his desk to mine, making certain that borrowed supplies were returned to me and scrupulously tossing any trash. He gave me the honor of his trust and an opportunity to reassure him on the quality of his creation.

If only I could facilitate this type of joy with every activity. Or maybe it’s necessary to survive the repetition of addition for a royal frog to become reality. It definitely makes a case for letting our imaginations take over to transcend daily realities. Shalom.

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Kids matter

Whenever I have an opportunity to speak with a student’s parent, it is inevitable that the mom or dad wants Billy or Sally to become a responsible adult, someone who makes good decisions. While my teaching methods fully support that goal, I often observe parents who behave as if their children will magically grow up to be responsible without having any idea about what that means. They are dragged along, told “no” to every request and prohibited from voicing preferences.

Very often my class will have a space in their schedules where they can select activities. Because I want them to have a voice in their days (and their lives), I suggest options such as computer math games, reading a book or drawing pictures. Conveniently, there is always an option for each taste or strength.

In the home, I also see opportunities to teach accountability and freedom of choice. Yelling at kids to clean their rooms is more a function of authority than decision-making. My position has always been – if you want to live in a messy room, that’s your choice. But I think that you’ll be happier and more comfortable if you put things away and create some order.

Kids can and should have voices in their lives. It’s a productive idea to let kids have an opinion in restaurants, vacation destinations and their clothes. Students who are especially proud of a shirt or backpack will always disclose that they selected each item. Voting is one of the many privileges of democracy. But it shouldn’t matter only to politics. Shalom.

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Trust

Believing everyone is dangerous, but believing nobody is more dangerous. Abraham Lincoln

When did you stop believing someone, everyone or everything? My guess is that if you stated, “All of the above,” you’ve stopped believing in yourself. Let’s think of an example.

It’s quite common to do what I call installing a ceiling on your head. This is an invisible barrier, one that prohibits you from being or doing whatever your heart tells you to do. On a daily basis, I tell children that the only ceiling they have is the one that they put there.

Stop believing in yourself and the next step is to stop believing others. When I tell you that you can achieve everything in your dreams, the lack of belief in yourself enables you to delete my conviction. Pretty soon everyone loses credibility and you can disregard everything.

On the far end of that spectrum is believing everyone. Fast money schemes, no liability promises and encouragement to stretch the rules all fall under that dubious category. Somewhere in the middle we all find the ability to trust those who are worth trusting and disbelieving the rest.

One of my favorite statements is, “trust your gut.” Believe that you will make the right choice and you will. This type of determination will enable you to trust the right people and watch them live up to your expectations. As usual, Honest Abe has the right idea. Extremes don’t work but good judgment does. Shalom.