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The best day of the year!

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Dear friends,

Last week I ran into one of my former students – we’ll call him Al. Al is one of those guys with a huge toothy grin and a sunny spirit; he’s so infectiously cheerful that it’s hard not to love him. He’s razor-smart, too, and I really enjoyed having him in class. We should all have more students like Al.

He told me he’d be in one of my classes this fall, and we discussed the adventures of registration and buying books. Then he lowered his voice and said, in a conspiratorial whisper, “I’m really looking forward to the start of classes; I can’t wait for fall term to begin.” Then he dipped his head and smiled sheepishly, as if he’d just admitted something really embarrassing.

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I was always “that kid,” the one who couldn’t wait for the first day of school. It was thrilling to see the stores start displaying new school supplies; all those shiny new folders and pencils and pens, rulers and backpacks, writing pads and reams of paper. To me, that was exciting stuff, tools I would use to learn amazing new things. When summer began to wane, I was never regretful. I wanted to see my school friends and teachers again, and start the new year. I was saying just the other day: to me, a “year” starts in September, not January. The New Years’ Eve countdown doesn’t seem that meaningful to me – the year begins when the alarm clock goes off on the first day of school.

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This has always been true for me, and it sounds like it’s true for Al, too. A lot of college students can’t wait for the end of a semester, for break, for graduation, but some of us have learned to love the university life. At some point, we grow into the identity of “scholar,” and are no longer embarrassed to say “I’m eager to learn, this is where I want to be. Here, I’m among my own kind.” In my experience, it’s often the students like Al who go on to grad school, and end up as teachers themselves.

Were you that kid who got excited about a new backpack, a new lunchbox, a new outfit to wear on the first day of school? I was too, and I still am. Friends will sometimes joke and call me “school nerd” or “poindexter,” but those labels don’t embarrass me. I love to learn, I’m owing it – and I hope that Al will learn to own it too.

Blessings,

Annette

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The kid in the picture

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Dear friends,

I recently found a photo of myself as a kid.  I’m struck by this child, her smile, her innocence, her confidence that everything is going to turn out right.

At first I thought, well, she’s gone.  Then: no, she exists.  She is me.  And I have a responsibility to her, forever.

My job is to take care of her.  Sometimes she will need comfort, and sometimes she will need discipline.  I must challenge her to grow, without pushing so hard that I frustrate her.  And I should never be harsh.  She should be able to trust me.

I won’t always get it right, but I’ll do my best to take care of her today.

Blessings,

Annette

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Break some eggs

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Dear friends,

There’s an old saying: if you want to make an omelette, you’ve got to break some eggs.

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On a rural road near my parents’ house, there used to be an old, fallen-down barn.  This structure (what was left of it) was an eyesore, a danger, and served no useful purpose.  Then two interesting things happened: (1) the local fire department used it as a practice for a “controlled burn,” and cleared the site, then (2) the community came together to build a Habitat for Humanity house on the lot.  Soon, the old barn had been replaced by a lovely, tidy little home with flowerbeds out front, and bicycles in the driveway.

In order for this to happen, the “old” had to be swept away.

Change can be scary.  Periods of transformation are anxious times, filled with uncertainty and doubt.  We long to cling to the familiar.  But when we’re most afraid, that’s the time to fix our eyes on the horizon, to anticipate better things ahead, to have faith that the old barn will be replaced by a pretty house, full of new life.

Let’s be hopeful.

Blessings,

Annette

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What’s it all for?

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“Consider this…

Anything that annoys you is “for” teaching you patience.
Anyone who abandons you is “for” teaching you how to stand up on your own two feet.
Anything that angers you is “for” teaching you forgiveness and compassion.
Anything that has power over you is “for” teaching you how to take your power back.
Anything you hate is “for” teaching you unconditional love.
Anything you fear is “for” teaching you courage to overcome your fear.
Anything you can’t control is “for” teaching you how to let go and trust the Universe.”

– Jackson Kiddard

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Falling

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Dear friends,

This morning, I’ve been pondering all the ways that we fall.

Falling down. Falling in love. Falling forward, falling back. Falling on ice, on stairs, on a slippery floor.

Ponder the sensation of falling. Even the word, how it makes you feel.

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Free-falling on a carnival ride. For some, it’s a joy, a sensation of safe terror. For others, it’s just terror. That feeling when your stomach falls and you know you’re going down, with no one to catch you, or save you. No time to react, to rescue yourself. Pain may be coming.

Falling in love. A voluntary fall (flying leap into the unknown), or an involuntary submission to the inevitable, expecting to be hurt, hoping to come out on the other side with minimal bruising. Why it’s called falling. We jump, we stumble, we try to catch ourselves before we hit the ground hard. Sometimes we find a soft place to land.

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Falling down. That moment between the stumble and hitting the ground, thinking you can catch yourself. The shock when you don’t. That moment of nothingness before the pain comes. Standing back up. Gathering yourself, your things, your dignity. Hoping that nobody saw. Hoping somebody saw, so they’ll come to your aid. Feeling angry, and stupid, and bruised.

Falling hard. Falling soft. Never falling at all.

Falling can be a great teacher.

Blessings,

Annette

 

What true leaders know

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Dear friends,

True leaders know that the seed of an idea can be nurtured and grown in the soil of fear, or the soil of goodwill.  Both types of soil are fertile, and if the plants are well-tended, both will bear fruit.

By our fruits we are known.

Let’s consider these ideas:  Our skin color makes us different.  Our religions make us different.  Difference makes it difficult to connect.

Consider what happens when those idea/seeds are planted and cultivated in the soil of fear:  Difference means hierarchy, it means scarcity, it means estrangement.  It means that some of us are better than others, that there’s not enough to go around, and we must retreat to our corners and fight for what is “ours.”

Now consider how those plants grow in the soil of goodwill.

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Difference is acknowledged, and honored.  We’re not all the same, but the things that make us different enrich the human community.  We are curious about difference, rather than threatened.  We don’t worry about scarcity, because we know that if everyone is allowed to perform at their highest potential, we will all benefit.  Estrangement is overcome, as we are motivated to connect, not self-segregate.

True leaders know that a climate of fear is toxic to the human community.  The fruits of fear are anger, attack, suspicion, and disconnection.  And the other fruits, the fruit of goodwill that would see us all connected?

“The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”  (Galatians 5: 22-23).

That’s the climate each of us needs to create in our communities, in order to bear good fruit.  We can start by recognizing when we’re acting toward others from a place of fear.  Whatever we feed and fertilize will result in a harvest.

Blessings,

Annette