Wednesday, December 10, 2008

from khalil gibran's the prophet

"When you work, you fulfill a part of earth's furthest dream, assigned to you when that dream was born."

These words paint a picture to me of a baby being born. The earth and its people community say, here is a child. To this child, we entrust the safeguarding of this dream.

And so that child has a dream, a commitment, an obligation, to bring something unique, special to this planet, that only she or he ever could.

I wish that our jobs felt like this for us. I know that almost everyone I know does not experience this in their employment.

Currently I earn money by helping students to understand math. I like to help people overcome hurdles that are between them and what they would like to achieve. I like explaining math to minds that are curious. I like giving the underprivileged an advantage so that they can live up to their potential as humans. I like showing people that math is understandable and accessible.

But there are times when my student doesn't care about anything except passing, with minimal effort. When their cellphones go off and they try to hide that they are looking at them. When they want me to do all the work and thinking for them.

There are other times when the student is earnest and hard-working, but the skills that they are expected to master are so unbelievably silly, convoluted, and irrelevant to their life. I can see that the only way they are going to learn to do the math is to stifle the voice that says "why, what is the point?" "I would so much rather be learning something I am interested in!"

Why shouldn't they learn what they care about? Why has the curriculum of so many students been pre-determined? Why can't each child learn to follow their curiosity?

I think this brings me back to the quotation at the top. If a student has had to silence their true voice in order to get by, is it any wonder that when they turn 18, when they graduate and face an unbelievable array of choices of "careers"...that they are unable to know who they are, what they are supposed to do?

I am learning that each of us is unique, with a purpose, with special skills, gifts for our families, our communities, and our world. And I'm learning that children, even while quite young, need to be nurtured to discover their own uniqueness. Not in a spirit of arrogance, but as future contributors, as givers, caretakers, creators. In a spirit of generosity.

And what about my gift to the world? I think I have more to give than explaining math, although it can be fun. I would like to become wise, to learn to live at peace with myself, with others, and with God, my Father. I would like to learn how to live wisely and gently on this beautiful earth. I would like to give kindness and love to my family and my friends.

The amazing thing is that so much has been given to me by others who lived the truth of the prophet's statement. And I am grateful for that. The books that I read are gifts from writers who worked to express the wisdom they had gained in their short lives. People who do not write have taught me to live.

I guess it is a cycle of giving. Sort of like the cycles in nature, where nothing is ever wasted.

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