I am usually grateful for having the parents, family and mentors I’ve had in my life. Today, not so much. If I hadn’t been raised to care so deeply about others and not only to understand, but live my life knowing that social justice should always be a priority, I would probably be able to enjoy life right now. I do care though. I care deeply and it is working against me right now.
I am sure that anyone walking past me at this moment in time would assume that I am enjoying life. I am writing this as I sit outside, near the ocean, in almost complete solitude. The sun is shining down on me, and there is a perfect breeze to keep me feeling comfortable. It is not lost on me that not everyone is having this kind of day today, or even this moment. I am healthy, able to go buy and cook food that I like and that I know will nourish me and keep me healthy. This morning, Day Two of my 2 ½ day solo retreat, I put my laptop in my backpack and walked to this serene spot where I can take some deep breaths, reflect on my thoughts and try to make some sense of all of the chaos and sadness that has been so prevalent in our world lately. I guess I am practicing self-care. Self-care is a buzzword that gets tossed around a lot these days. I preach it to teachers all the time. You can even earn credits for licensure renewal taking “self care” courses. Truth be told, I wish it were that easy. I wish self-care could wipe away the sadness; the injustice, the hurt and the anger that I know so many others are experiencing during this pandemic and ongoing fight for equity for all. It seems to me, that there are plenty of people who are oblivious to it all. As if there were no coronavirus taking the lives of people daily. As if there was not yet another brutal murder of a Black man or woman by a white police officer. As if the riots that have broken out because of the continued blatant racism in so many cities across our country, are not important enough to pay close attention to without seeing it as only an act of irresponsible vandalism.
I am having difficulty grappling with all of that right now. I can’t just turn off my caring button. In reality, I know that my taking a couple of days to rest, write, read and scrapbook does not make me a less caring person. Nor does it make me any less sad or angry. Maybe it’s Catholic guilt (although I thought I gave that up over 40 years ago?) My hope is that it re-energizes me so that I can think clearly and move forward to do the work that my heart wants me to do.
There is nothing to be gained by wishing you were someplace else or waiting for a better situation. You see where you are and do what you can with that. –Jacob K. Javits
I am an educator. Always have been and always will be. I firmly believe that education is the best chance we have at creating change. The changes that need to happen are systemic changes, and that’s a huge undertaking. Without educated, empathetic leaders, we will not get to the much needed, positive changes that will make a difference. I am not convinced that we are even close to being where we need to be, and I know for a fact that public education needs to change drastically if we are to begin to develop young people who can think for themselves, based on facts, accurate history and compassion. Systemic change can only happen if there are people with the intelligence, passion and courage willing to change it. This change will need to come from younger generations. While I still consider myself young, I realize that sixty-one is not young to anyone under the age of forty. I caution our young, passionate game changers though. Do not be so self-righteous that you do not listen to and learn from your older mentors, colleagues and leaders, and those younger than you. Our future leaders. Don’t ever get to a place where you do not value every single voice. It’s easy to get caught up in emotions. It’s easy to rationalize our every word and action. It’s easy to judge others because they think or act differently than us.
I haven’t given up. Although, this turbulent time in history has brought me closer to giving up than I ever have before, I do know I can get through whatever gets tossed my way. That’s part of being in elementary education. I see the potential in our younger generation. They have so much to give and so much to teach us. Their world is going to be much different than mine was while I was growing up, and we all have a chance now to make sure it is a safe and positive place for them to live, love and grow. We will see who really cares. Not only about themselves, but who actually cares about others. That’s the change I think we need. Do you care?