Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Date: Sun, 10 Mar 2002 09:14:10 -0500 (EST)
Random Thought: What Is Commitment?

I came in from my chilly pre-dawn morning walk to read a short but warming message from a student about whom I had been thinking for the past couple of days: "I'm home now. It turned out okay. Wanted you to know that I'm okay now. Thanks for being only one there to listen. And thanks for your commitment to people like me......" She wasn't okay a few days ago. I'll just say when she called not too long after the sun rose. It was a call out of the proverbial "blue." She isn't even in one of my classes this semester. I hadn't heard from her for a while. As I remember, we hadn't talked all that much when she was in class a year ago. Now, she was hysterical. She had been crying all night. I don't think I was the "only there" for her, but at this moment she thought so and that made it so, and I was there. I mostly listened, occasionally consoled, calmed, helped her to believe there were others for her, and ever-struggled to gently guide her to a counselor and futilely to overcome her resistance. After what seemed like days but was only a little more than an hour, she finally said she could handle her situation now, thanked me for listening and for the few words of support and encouragement I could muster. After I hung up the phone, I grabbed a cup of coffee, walked outside, and sat quietly by the fish pond listening to the waterfalls.

As the soothing sounds and melodic movements of the Koi gently massaged my muscles and soul, I suppose I could have said, "I don't need this." Before I could think such disavowing, her mention of commitment started to haunt me. I realized that the biggest challenge any of us as teachers face is to maintain a sense of urgency, to pursue each day as if there is no tomorrow, to create and seize every opportunity, to be constantly on alert, almost taut, while being patient and calm enough to stick with it through the thick and thin for however many tomorrows it may take. Each of us, without exception, has within us the power and ability to meet every challenge teaching throws at us. It's called our heart, spirit, soul, whatever. If we focus it, aim it, we can stick it out rather than get stuck; we can keep it up rather than get down; we can continue to breathe deeply rather than run out of breath; we can keep control of our lives rather and lose control over them. Our heart is a tool, and powerful and essential tool. It becomes our reality. It envelopes; it visulaizes; it shapes; it guides; it directs; it keeps our balance; it will take you anywhere we want to go; it works every day to find a way to make for us a world of teaching that we want. That takes a constant belief in what we're doing, a constant faith in the value of what we're doing, a vision of where we're going, a sincere confidence that we're doing whatever it takes to help as many others help themselves as we can, and a deep-seated trust in and a knowledge that anything worthwhile takes time and more time and still more time. All--and that is a heck of an "all"--it takes is commitment to an other.

What's commitment? Well, if I was a dictionary I would list: attention, focus, vigilance, persistence, responsible, responsibility, inconvenience, perseverance, endurance, belief, believable, integrity, appreciate, capable, faith, faithful, uncomfortable, hope, respect, respectful, expectation, meaningful, valuable, enthusiasm, fearless, confidence, determination, gutsy, sweat, forgiving, hopeful, will, willing, possibility, opportunity, responsible, responsibility, dream, courage, desire, understanding, trusting, trust-worthiness, promise, authentic, care, love, intentional, action, strong, determination, searching, powerful, effort, sacrifice, painful, joy, time. And, after having received this message, worth it.

         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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