Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Date: Sat, 1 Jan 2000 10:18:03 -0500 (EST)
Random Thought: A Y2K Toast

Good morning, and a happy new year.

For me, that greeting has, always had, a tinny gong to it. The new year is just a number. Nothing to go crazy about. Especially this time. I didn't have the excitement and imagination it created in and was created by others. It's not that I am a spoil sport who knows that this year is not a millenial end and beginning or that the celebration is something of a chauvinistic, Western, and Christian thing that ignores the other ten calendars in existence and thus has far less meaning to the majority of humankind. No, part of my anemic attitude is the result of having come literally within inches of being killed by a drunken driver in my teenage days before seat belts and air bags. So, I don't do bacchanalian scene of the new year. Just dragged off the sofa by my angelic Susan, a cautious drive to a dear friend's house, a very small and intimate gathering with three other couples who are like close family, needed uplifting and support and encouragement after a previous week of deep personal pain, noshes, a quiet spaghetti dinner, a cup of coffee to aid in the struggle to stay awake, hugs and kisses and clanking of glasses miserly filled with a liquid whose taste never did tickle my palette, immediately followed by a cautious drive home, and then nighty-night by 12:30 a.m.

Walking the pre-dawn streets this morning reminded me that there was another reason, to put it mildly, I was more than a tad "listless" about this bull of a 2000 bull market in lists. I found a familiarity in the darkness, in the quiet, in the damp and tepid air, in the wash of the approaching dawn. No sense of novelty, of anything defining, of anything strange, of anything threatening, of anything sudden, of anything expectant, of approaching a gateway, of anything monumentous. Today is merely a Saturday. People will be awaking up, making breakfast, going about their daily lives. On this day, like any other day, promises will be made and broken, faces will smile and frown, love will blossom and lost, hearts will be mended and broken. There will be triumphs and defeats, war and peace, joys and sadness. People will lie and cheat. There will be destruction and construction. People will be honest and law-abiding. There will be violence, ignorance, poverty, unhappiness and hate just as there will be enlightenment, wealth, joy, and caring will bless. Money will be made and lost, saved and spent. Art will be created. Trails will be pioneered. Frontiers will be crossed. Things will be discovered and invented. People will pray. People will exercise their rights and bodies. People will play. People will travel by car, airplane, computer. People will be tense and relax. People will get sick and get well. Some will take their first breath and first step and speak their first words, and others their last. Things go on and on and on, flowing into one another without a beginning or end, more or less, most times so gradually you don't feel the motion, with some inevitable change. The sun is not fascinated with the round number. The galaxies pay no heed to man-created time, artificial symbols that people so ofter forget are just that: representations.

Yet, as we clear away the confetti, hats and horns, gift boxes and wrappings, left-overs, and empty bottles, as we take down the tree and pack up the lights, put the menorah back on the shelf, taste the last feastive treat, I think there is something to be gained from all this time of the year when everything seems amplified, exaggerated, and multiplied. As teachers, we can use this time of the year to heighten our sense of obligation to do what is within our power to do. And what is that? Well, first, we have to realize that we as teachers are gift givers. But, our gifts are not neatly wrapped presents to be handed out and unwrapped on a particular time and in a designated place. They are not fonts of information, techniques, letters of recommendations, lectures, grades. No, our gifts are our timeless, boundless, daily presence of caring for each student. And maybe informational, technological and assessment excess in academia, like commercial excess at this time of the year, cheapens or ignores that certain critical spirit.

Somewhere in the Christmas Carol, I vaguely remember that Dickens spoke of this season of wonder and joy as a good time of kindness, forgiveness, charity, pleasantness. But, as teachers we cannot be bound to only this small portion of the calendar to freely open our hearts, smile at and greet others, and be aware that we and each student have a shared humanity. We teachers must be alive in that special way of which Dickens talks each day and always extra mindful of tomorrow.

So, let me lift a glass and offer a seasonal toast, a toast that is probably more of a judgement on today than a gaze into tomorrow: may each class day of the coming year be a day of wonder and joy for each of us in each student; may we always be a joyful Christmas ornament, Chanukah candle, Ramadan treat; may we reach across the restrictions of this holiday season's time and place, and make it into a timeless and boundless state of mind and heart that must be spent in the right way each day; may our legacy to each student be not just in information, but enduring convictions, ideas, principles and character; may we realize that while we cannot see much less control the future, we have the power to start looking and listening; may we realize that while we do not know how things will end or what they will mean, we do have a say in their beginning and what may be said of us; may we enter the classroom each day with a sense of optimism and faith, and not merely struggle to just survive; may the classroom be lit like a sparkling jewel where we see a glistening fascset in each seat; may our classrooms be packed with curiosity; may we be ever giddy by seeing the classroom threshold as the edge of an adventure; may we never loose our sense of innocence; may we chase brash and magnificant dreams, forging the separate elements of possibility into an ingot of alloyed reality; may we keep the pace of the renegade, forever restless, and be custodians of revolutions in attitude; may we remain students and find the search to be wonderfully rejuvenating.

And may we endow on each of our students with these gifts of learning and life: to be locksmiths of mystery, to have empathy and imagination, and to know how to learn on their own.

And may we know that the will to do all this will not come from our bank of knowledge or from technological resources, but from what is in each of our hearts.

A sincere, Happy New Year to you from us, and....

Make it a good day. 


Louis Schmier           
Department of History    
Valdosta State University
Valdosta, GA  31698                        /~\    /\ /\
912-333-5947                       /^\    /   \  /  /~ \     /~\__/\
                                  /   \__/     \/  /     /\ /~      \
                            /\/\-/ /^\___\______\_______/__/_______/^\
                          -_~     /  "If you want to climb mountains, \ /^\
                             _ _ /      don't practice on mole hills" -\____

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