"Mrs. Rosamond, does this count?" I can't tell you how many times a week I hear this question. My standard answer to this is, "Yes....(fill in the name of the asking student) Everything counts. Even lunch." Most teachers take this question as a code for "Do I really have to try on this assignment? Can't I just "phone" it in?" A wise man (this would be my husband) is the one who really introduced me to this concept. It sounds so simple, yet it's something we don't really consider.
This past summer, I was a participating fellow of the Mississippi State Writing for Thinking Institute. A whole summer dedicated to writing and the teaching of writing. And 6 graduate hours to boot. We wrote constantly, which makes sense since it was, after all, a writing class. Each day we had journaling time and then those that wanted to could share. The first week or so was difficult for me....I had a hard time finding my place.
For those of you that know me in person, you may find this hard to believe. Outside of situations in which I feel really comfortable, I have some social insecurities. Add to this that I tend to run a little on the paranoid side, well, it makes for some awkward situations. After a little bit, when I find my footing, I loosen up. So this past summer, I was looking ahead to an entire month of 8 hour days, five days a week with people that I didn't feel I fit in with. It was overwhelming. One of the gals there wrote and shared one day the story of how she and her husband adopted their son. She was skeptical at first, given that she and her husband were 50 at the time. I don't remember all the details, but I do remember this....the catalyst was a phone call from a friend asking if she and her husband would consider adoption. I think prior to that she hadn't really given it any serious thought. Of course, the story had a great ending and my friend is this incredibly wonderful mother to Sam, who started school this year. And it got me to thinking.....
What if she hadn't been home when the phone rang? What if she had never met that person that called her about the adoption? What if she had said something during the course of their friendship that had caused tension and they drifted apart? Would my friend Linda still have found her son? I believe in destiny and that the Lord's plan for our lives is perfect....if we would have enough sense to get out of His way....but still......did that friend of Linda's even have a clue of how that one call changed her life in such a major way? Did she have any inkling that she'd play such a vital role in this little boy's life? This got me to wondering...and as most people know, this can be dangerous for me.
It led me to write a pivotal piece that summer entitled "Everything Counts." I wrote it to the ladies of the summer institute but the essence was that everything we do counts, even the small stuff. The smile you share with me today may be what helps me overcome some sadness that I feel and thus enhances my teaching efforts that day. And a good day of teaching has no limits. If I can reach or teach just one student a day, I consider that successful. Once you touched a person's life, your influence continues through their life and influences those around them. It was a profound piece for me, and I believe is what helped me find my place among those ladies that summer....but what if I'd never written that piece?
You see.....it all counts.....it matters. All of it. The crummy day you've had and the following terse comment in passing with me may cause me to question myself, my motives, or dredge up some deep issues I've yet to deal with. My students, my family, all those around me benefit or hinder from my life. Am I speaking life or death to them? Am I going to consider the weight of my words and how they could be used to lift another or tear them down? Sadly, the answer to this is that we most often are wrapped up in our little lives and don't think how it will effect others. I'm really bad about this. I'm constantly trying to "get over" myself and see the bigger picture. All I can say in that regard is that I'm still a work in progress.
I am the sum total of all my experiences. Experiences that involve others. We are in constant contact with others, and we bounce little bits of ourselves off the other person to see what returns. If it's good, we continue in the same manner, always looking for increase. If our efforts return void, we look into ourselves and alter the parts that need changing. We are like hedge clippers for those around us. We spend our days, going through our lives, and we help prune those around us. Pruning is good, even necessary for proper growth. But as we all know, if you prune too vigorously, you can quickly injure or kill what you thought you were trying to help. I see this truth everyday in those around me. I often wonder if I'm speaking life or death to each person around me. Does getting road rage at someone that cut me off in traffic make me a better person? Does it help the other person become better? Sadly, the answer to both is no. And yet we fling out those pruning shears and not always think about where or how they will land. Death or life....which will it be?
So the other end of this is true too.....will a smile and a cheery hello from me be just what you needed at that moment? Were you looking for validation or for confirmation that you are here and that you matter? Did you walk away from our exchange better for the experience? I think this is one of the eternal walks we all traverse.....how to become a better person and encourage those around us.
Here I am world. Both parts of me exposed and open to love and hurt. Part of me is looking for my echo...how parts of me are taken by those around me....looking for connections with others...The other part is looking for you and how I can minister life to you. Me walking with you down your life's journey....Me helping you find life. Everything we do, everything we say....counts. The big stuff, the little stuff. Calls to your mother, helping a co-worker, saying thank you and please and excuse me, sharing yourself with others. All of these things are important and they all count. The job you take, the person you marry, the place you live in, the words you share with others, the amount of integrity you hold....all of this counts.
I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend, a teacher. Who I am, in part, is due to our interactions. Life or death? That is the question my friends....but the answer is still the same.......