August 2 Marks Pivotal Anniversary

Diamonds & Roses
Trust your heart, and trust your story.
(Neil Gaiman, Instructions, Harper 2010)

The day I came home from camp, August 2nd, the summer between 3rd and 4th grades, my 5-year-old brother swam the length of our neighbor­hood swimming pool, climbed into my mother’s arms, and died. This sudden and unexpected tragic event changed all of our lives forever. He died of a rare heart disease no one knew he had before.

That fall, my 4th-grade teacher, sensing my impatience with school­work, suggested that I learn to think like a teacher instead of a student. Before she taught each lesson, she showed me the techniques and strate­gies she would use with our class. With warm words and creative coun­sel, she instilled in me a love of learning.

If an eagle gives you a feather, keep it safe.

You might expect me to say next that this also infused me with an appreci­ation for schooling. It did not. At 9 years old I gained an eerie insight that my individual needs were different from those of my classmates. My discomfort grew as I realized that I wasn’t the only different one. Classmates also had exceptional experiences.

Our teacher delivered the same message, in the same way, at the same time to every student, expecting the same result. We needed more than cookie-cutter instructional methods and the curriculum she was required to teach. We needed an acknowledgment that we were individuals. We needed opportunity to listen and learn from one another. We needed physical, mental, and emotional space to create a new way to be.

Instead of feeling inspired to become a teacher, at age 9 I became suspicious of anything or anyone that didn’t honor people’s dif­ferences and make space for them to create something only they together could.

Hearts can be well-hidden, and you betray them with your tongue.

Years later I can appreciate what my 4th-grade teacher offered because she helped me develop a cause, a drive, and a viewpoint.

Since that time, I’ve thought about, tried out, and learned from learning nearly every day. My goal has been both to learn more and to help other people become the curious, wide-eyed learners they once were. It is in that place, it is from that vantage point, where we can see what needs to be seen and do what we are meant to do.

Remember your name. Do not lose hope—what you seek will be found.

I write books. I give talks. I advise amazing organizations. And I discover again and again that together we have the power to take back our natural capacity to learn and realize our unending capacity to create new practices together.

It is our differences, our experiences, and our perspectives—when we share them and reflect on them, and act on them—that provide us an opportunity to be more than any one teacher (leader), any one classroom (workplace), or any one environment (community) can provide. Rather than get caught up in activities that ignore our differences and our opportunities to be better together because of those differences, let’s tell our stories, be our full selves, and lean into our potential.

When you reach the little house, the place your journey started, you will recognize it, although it will seem much smaller than you remember.

[photo credit: Diamonds and Roses, Artful Magpie]
August 2 Marks Pivotal Anniversary
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