Copyright © Louis Schmier
Date: Sat 2/3/2007 4:32 AM
This morning I received a message. It started with the profound, ďStill Clean!! 496 Days!!! 3.6 last semester!! Only you would have thought at first. Now I do also!! What color is your pinky nail today?Ē It went on:
Ö.I remember you saying that facing death from cancer placed you closest to facing life and that never forgetting you could have died is the best way to intensely live life, and that I should never blot out when IÖÖ Like your cancer, all that past shit now reminds me of my blessings, to list all the good things in my life, to see the real value within me, to focus on the potential I have within me, to focus on my purpose in life, and to put me at peace withÖ...I still like that because each day I was think about how if I want to become a stronger, more self-confident person, I can become that person. I am slowly being confident and believing in myself. I am slowly seeing that I can achieve a lot more than Iíve ever tried to. One clean day leads me to another and another and another. Each day I get a tingle of excitement when I think of fulfilling my unexplored possibilities that I once never dreamed could exist. Those feelings tell me who I actually am and of the value within me which is important if I am to believe in what I can do. I cherish them and now work hard to bring them to the surface and give them life so they can give me a better life. Like you told me, a small step on a great journey to find that magnificent treasure within me is not small at all. I really liked what you once said to me. Each day I am clean I believe in myself more. I do not think all those negative things that people have said about me and have done to me, and what I had believed for so long about me. I realize my value and self worth does not come fromÖ.but from who I am. I am so happy to not have felt that awful feelingÖ.It was a feeling of shame, sadness, and anger. Now each day I am clean I gain confidence in myself and am happier. I donít let those voices stop me. I donít let others stop me. I donít let me stop me. I have found that my most beautiful and fulfilling moments are the ones that are the sincere and authentic ones. That is, when I'm being my true self is, when I'm at my best. So many people so quickly latch on to someone else's idea of who they should be and what is success, while at the same time ignoring their own authentic dreams. So many people so easily ignore the words in their gut and dismiss their own instincts and intuitions. Thatís what I was doing. I remember all those times you told me that each day I was clean I was being myself and no longer what others wanted or expected me to be. You kept telling me to pay attention to that little voice inside of me. I listen to it now each day. That voice, as I see, tells me what I can accomplish, what brings me joy, and create real richness in my life. I have taped to my mirror a copy of note you sent me in reply to when I was desperately in need of faith in me. I doubt you remember it. Iím sure you donít remember it. Here it is: ĎCould it be that there is a vast storehouse of value within you that is waiting to be unlocked, and that each day you're clean you catch a glimpse of it and those brief encounters truly amaze you? Remember your future is not a place; itís something you create. Whatever path you choose to walk, remember itís the one youíve cut. Itís not the one youíve discovered. Make your future, cut your path, and youíll change who you are and the course youíre following. If you can follow your inner voice, youíll slowly stop listening to the dark, denigrating voices; you'll let go of all the superficial distractions and petty pursuits under which have locked up that richness. When you no longer let things tear you down and enslave you, when you see the angel rather than the demon inside, youíll find sacredness in yourself and purpose and meaning in your life. When you distance yourself from your sadness, youíll come closer to the true joy that is your birthright. When you no longer pin your hopes on shallow, fleeting, physical sensations, youíll uncover your beautiful inner spirit that can bring your life true joy. As you do all that, you start becoming the person you are capable of becoming.í Each day I read those words as I brush my teeth and put on my makeup. Thanks to youóI know, really to me--each day Iím clean Iím living with fulfillment and purpose. Each day Iím clean I no longer am running and hiding from the real joy that I now know can be mine. Each day Iím clean Iím authentically living the life of that sacred someone I am. Each day Iím clean I see that angel in front of me telling everyone to make way for someone created in the image of God. Each day Iím clean Iím coming closer to the real me. Each day Iím clean Iím letting go of all those angers, distractions, fears, frustrations and annoyances that come from chasing the approval of others I so desperately wanted, that so desperately owned me, that so desperately disrespected me, that so limited my belief in myself and what I am capable of becoming. Each day Iím clean, I've opened a little wider that inner vault I wanted to believe was always inside me but until I met you and heard the story of your painted pinky never dared to see if it was true. Iíve found real gold inside me and Iíll be damn if Iím ever going to settle any more for fool's gold. Just want to say thanks and to let you know that youíre teaching me and Iím learning long after our class is overÖ.
Iím not going to go into any details about this person who was in class with me sometime in the near past.
This message, along with a conversation I had with my good friend, Don Fraser, is the answer to a question thrown at me by a student who wants to be a teacher. He asked me what it is about teaching that turns me on. It's the students. When I'm around with those young people, I grab energy from them by the fistful. The steam rises. I love it. I love working with the young. I love helping them help themselves start becoming what they are capable of becoming. I love getting up each morning asking myself how I can make a difference. It's making a difference in someone's life and altering the future! I'll tell him that a true education is not getting a grade or a diploma. It's not found in a GPA or a recognition. If that was the case, then the least of learning takes place in the classroom. We each are what we dwell on. So many students are the attitudes and thoughts that stand in the way of seeing clearly that which they truly are and capable of becoming. So many students are overcome by halting "I ams," and barricading "buts" and paralyzing "can'ts." They've lost their self-empowerment. They've lost the essential peace that is within each of them. That's important to understand and focus on. While most talents are a gift, the character to develop and use those talents is not written in our DNA code. We have to build it piece by piece by thought, choice, courage, determination, perseverance, commitment, belief, faith, confidence, hope, and love.
I'll tell him that making a difference means paying attention to the possibilities. It means evoking a generosity of conscience expended to helping each student change her or his focus. It means helping each student make clear much of what is presently out of focus. So many times, in so many journal entries written by the students, in so many conversation with them, I see that students are not aware of their talents and abilities, confuse getting grades with learning, and don't wonder what they have to do to cut through the veil that obscures their great potential? To me, then, making a difference means helping someone lose and find her/himself at the same time, of helping her or him find a new way of looking at her/himself, at others, and at things."
I'll tell him that I see teaching and learning as a journey to self-discovery for myself and others. It's vital to see that, for to know yourself, understand your own heart and mind, seeing how the threads of that understanding and knowledge weave through all aspects of life is a knowledge of will, the clear intention to be, a recognition that you have the gift of life, you're a caretaker of that life, and to actualize your life purpose. It's a vehicle to push myself and each student to achieve our own unique potential. It's not just a way to make a living. It's a way to make a life.
Iíll tell him that for me, what it takes to be a teacher is a way of life. It's a way to answer the larger, more important, questions of life. It's a means to make meaningful connections. Above all, teaching is not only for or about me. Its essence rests in an otherness. It is about doing it for other people.
Iíll tell him that, I found soon after my epiphany in 1991 that as I began a shift from striving to be important to doing significant things, as I slowly placed myself in the shadows, I began to see the sunlight in others, especially in each student. So, I've come to look at teaching from a broad view with a vision of service. Professionally, my life's work is in helping each student help her/himself become the person she or he is capable of becoming.
Iíll let him in on a little secret. None of this ďturn onĒ is a goal. I don't focus on influencing or being significant or even on making a different. I don't have a map. I find that maps and fixed goals trespass on my freedom to be innovative, flexible, adaptive, and creative. I just pay attention, intense attention, to what and who are around me. That is, I don't so worry about where I'm going that I lose track of where I am; I don't look at tomorrow or yesterday that I forget to live today; I don't so intently focus on a destination that I don't enjoy the ride. I do have a compass; I have aspirations that breathe life into me and make me pant with desire. I never really feel lost with taking a wrong turn or having failed because every wrong turn or mistake is an opportunity for a "let's see where this leads to" learning and experiencing of new things, and therefore for growing. I listen for opportunities that are always knocking, but usually softly. I am intensely aware. I don't covet or regret--usually. I appreciate who I am, and more importantly who I am capable of becoming. I'm adventurous--always. I treat myself like the one-time journey I am, and revel in new experiences and meeting new people. I'm a people person, always reaching out to constantly seek, build and nurture relationships with new people. I don't worry how things will turn out because I have learned that one way to have the will power to take this journey is to acquire the want power to take this journey. I will get there because I want to get there, and since I want to get there, I'll do whatever it takes to get there. I know I will, for I've learned that it's only the happy, loving, faithful, believing, and hopeful heart that generously gives away and receives the best.
Want to make a difference? Then remember this: a life dedicated to a great purpose becomes great.
Make it a good day. --Louis-- Louis Schmier firstname.lastname@example.org Department of History www.therandomthoughts.com Valdosta State University www.halcyon.com/arborhts/louis.html Valdosta, GA 31698 /~\ /\ /\ 912-333-5947 /^\ / \ / /~\ \ /~\__/\ / \__/ \/ / /\ /~\/ \ /\/\-/ /^\_____\____________/__/_______/^\ -_~ / "If you want to climb mountains, \ /^\ _ _ / don't practice on mole hills" - \____