Slice of Life Challenge day 7 #sol18

Chinese numerology . . .

Chinese Numerology

That table? I thought, feeling a smile cross my face.  As we’d entered the restaurant, my family and I had been greeted by a server who had ushered us to the back.  There, a long table, covered in simple white cloth, elegantly sat, set for our arrival. White napkins folded.  Water glasses already poured.  A reservation. A handful of times we have dined at “The Village,” but never have we been seated at this table; for this, the big table, hosted the larger parties of, say, twelve.  This was the Event Table.  And tonight we were The Event.

Moving around to the back of the beautiful Event Table, I watched as my wife helped my daughters select their seats.  Behind us, our good friend and her son excitedly shuffled in out of the cold and joined us.  Two more friends joined behind them.

“Happy Birthday!” one friend chirped, handing me a bottle-shaped gift adorned in sparkly foil wrap.  I thanked her, so kind.  “You know,” she began, “in Chinese numerology, the number four is bad luck.”  A little confused, I mentally scrambled to catch up.  I knew this line of conversation was going somewhere, but hadn’t yet grasped where.  “In fact, people who are strong believers in Chinese numerology will not even consider purchasing a house if the number four is in the address.  Not even if the house address is, say 13… because three plus one equals four.  The number four is just bad luck.  It’s bad.”  Nodding, I leaned in.  She was serious, and  I really wanted to get this.  But I still wasn’t there.

Smiling at me, my friend continued, “And so, you are leaving your forties.  You are no longer going to be living in a decade with a constant four in your age.  So…Happy fiftieth!  Cheers!”  All the adults lifted their glasses.

Ah, got it.

Reflecting, I thought: Wow, I’m sitting at the Event Table.  And now this.  Gazing at the menu through my new spectacles, I realized I may have a lot to look forward to this decade.

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Slice of Life Challenge day 6 #sol18

A Small Glimpse of Humanity

My colleague and I stepped into the subway.  All around us, the chatter of the day’s events at Teacher’s College consumed the space.  Yes, an amazing day.  Entering the train, I immediately looked to my left, spotting two empty orange seats between passengers.  Wow! I thought.  At such a busy time, what are the chances?  Hurriedly, my colleague and I lowered ourselves into the two seats.  Feeling tentatively good– and definitely lucky– I settled in for the short ride to 96th Street where I knew we would transfer.  My colleague joined me in the other seat.  But as a former New Yorker, I continued to study the passengers entering the train car.  I watched as more able bodies crowded onto the train, and, clutching a silver pole, located a square foot of real estate in the bustling car.  I studied each of them.

And then it happened.

An elderly woman entered the fray.  Dressed in a white fleece jacket and leaning on a walker, I watched her eyes scan the crowded car.  No seats.  Suddenly I stood, and reached out my hand to direct her to my seat.

But someone had already beat me to the gesture.  A young man in a black waist-length coat had abruptly risen and politely began ushering her to his former seat.  Carefully and slowly, the woman made her way to the gifted bench spot and sat.  I thought I saw their eyes meet as she nodded brisk appreciation to the stranger, thanking him for this favor.

As I lowered back down, I silently thanked the man, too.  Not because I was able to keep my seat, but for the humanity he exhibited in that moment.  It’s nice to see that once in a while.

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Slice of Life Challenge day 5 #sol18

Birthdays are times for reflection…

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Birthdays are Times for Reflection

I closed the car door.  Walking toward the house,  I could feel a wave of reflection beginning to churn, like a storm, uncontrollable.  Entering through the front door and stepping into the house, I met my wife coming to greet me.  “What is it?” she asked.  I guess she could tell I had something on my mind.  I paused, not sure how to put words to feelings.

“Have I done all I could have?” I mused aloud.  Although I’m not sure that particular grammatical structure captured my exact sentiments, she knew what I was referring to in the question: My birthday.

Yes, another birthday has found me.

Thinking back through time, I remember birthday number 30.  A surprise party.  I had met the girl of my dreams. Things were progressing well, something I had resigned would never happen. But yet it had.  Great hope. Anticipation for what would come next in life.  The next ten years brought great adventure.  A wedding.  A house.  A move.  A new house.  New friends.  Wonderful friends.  All good. All good. Ten years move past.

And then, somehow another round-number birthday found me.  This time a trip to Costa Rica.  Two beautiful children.  Another move, to New York City this time.  A new job.  Amazing new colleagues.  Then another move.  New job.  One more baby.  All good.  All good.  Except Mom, losing her. Tough. Terrible.

Not speaking of my mom, my wife asked, “Would you have traded any of that?”  Inhaling deeply, I shook my head.

No.

Have I done all I could have?  The question echoed in my thoughts.  Then, Is that even a fair question?  I realized… I’m so grateful for the many blessings, people, experiences, family, knowledge, and opportunity that have graced these past fifty years.

Today is my birthday.  Here’s to another decade of adventure…

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Slice of Life Challenge day 4 #sol18

A small moment story about the kindness of a stranger…

 

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A Little Kindness from a Stranger

Check engine light.  Something most of us abhor.  But they do a job, right?  An important job. They inform us when something is awry within a vital material possession: our vehicle.  In my youth, no such technology existed.  In fact, it’s difficult to imagine where a check engine light would  even have been situated in a 1967 Volkswagen Bug.  But modern cars are able to let us know when something is wrong, even when we can’t detect what that something is ourselves.

As the snow began to overtake the rain, I jammed my 2009 Honda Pilot into park.  Wind whipped into my face as I made the reluctant mini-trek into the repair shop, umbrella in hand.  If tamping down anxiety were a skill I could monetize, I’d be on the cover of Fortune Magazine.  But that’s unfortunately the chief effect a future car repair produces in me.

“Can I help you?” came the voice from the buoyant, greasy kid behind the counter.  Approaching him, I provided my information and he located me in the appointment system.  “Okay, we’ll give you a call once we figure out what’s going on with your vehicle,” he assured me.  I thanked him and headed toward the exit.  “Wait a minute, you walking?” he asked.  I responded affirmatively, briefly explaining that I did not live far.  Maybe 15 minutes.  “You wanna ride?” he offered.  I paused. Glancing through the shop windows, I could see today’s Nor’Easter generously sharing plenty of wind and precipitation.  This would be no easy walk, but I had come prepared with my… well, my umbrella.

“I could drive him home.”

To my right, I turned to see from whence this voice originated.  Sitting calmly in a waiting room chair sat a woman.  Adorned in a sand-colored camel hair coat, tightly coiffed blonde hair, the woman was perhaps sixty years old or so.

I had never seen her in my life.

Our eyes met.  “Well, unless you’re an axe murderer?” she quipped, cracking a polite smile.  Chuckling and returning the smile, I explained that no, I was actually a teacher.  Not much of a risk.  “Come on,” she motioned as she stood up, “I’ll drive you.”

Apparently I had not tripped the woman’s check engine light.  Nothing awry here.  And grateful I was for this unexpected kindness from a stranger.

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Slice of Life Challenge day 3 #sol18

As educators, we live in trying times. Answers are not black and white. How much do we shield our kids from darkness?

A Different Climate

Shuffling into the library media center, I lowered myself into a chair near the back.  Around me, I watched as my colleagues straggled in, weary from a long day of teaching.  Tension seemed to permeate our air, but it might have been just my interpretation.  Teachers huddled around the snack cart recently wheeled in, making small talk about the day.

Finally, after we had all settled into chairs, our principal began.  “Has anyone heard anything about the upcoming student walk-out?”  she asked. Our discussion that day pivoted in a direction that, I suppose was not completely unfamiliar, and yet it felt unfamiliar.  In light of the most recent school shooting tragedy in Parkland, Florida, what exactly is our role as educators? I listened as my colleagues shared their thoughts and ideas around ways we might support our students in the wake of yet another school-related tragedy.  Of course, this incident is one-of-too-many our nation has had to endure over the last nearly-twenty years.  And yet, in light of the recent mobilization and speaking out on the part of some of America’s student youth, something feels a bit different this time.

All of us agreed that, as educators, we would play no role in politicizing the issue.  We also agreed that although our students are middle schoolers, parents possessed every right to shield their sons and daughters from such a horrific “news story.”  And as I sat in my chair that day, I came to a realization I am sure many of us who work with students in educational settings have come to– we are living and teaching in a strange new era.  An era with no easy answers.  A time when grappling with unimaginable questions has become our reality.  Questions like, how much shielding should we do? How much darkness is appropriate to keep our students away from?  What level of acknowledgement is appropriate?  And when it comes to student-initiated action meant to call attention to a glaring national problem, how do we position ourselves as adults of influence?

Not surprisingly, this agenda item dominated our faculty meeting.  And while many positive ideas emerged from our discussion, resolution remained elusive.  Our principal thanked us for the thoughtful exchange of ideas, and everyone rose to leave.

But one idea had definitely risen and crystallized that afternoon.  One idea inarguably true.  One that contained not one bit of murkiness or question: We love our students.  And that is likely why all of us educate.  In this new strange time that has shaken many of us to our very core, loving our students has not changed.  Perhaps some comfort might be taken from just that.

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