Grateful

Hello everyone, all of you delightful and inspirational bloggers out there. It is high time I thank you for the journey you have set me on with your writing and craft. I began this travel a little over a year and a half ago, I suppose a few months earlier than that, but things began to get pretty serious around March of 2013. In April of 2013 there came the ‘poem a day’ challenge, that complemented National Poetry Month, and for the first time in over 30 years, I stuck to the plan. I know it had a lot to do with the people here, and your support, your ideas, and your wonderful and intriguing writing.

To me, writing has always been a release (familiar words) but even more so in these blogs I have been able to shell out some of the skeletons in my closet, albeit mild in relation to Stephen King I suppose – man how does that guy live with himself? My writing has allowed me to gain greater confidence in my words, and a lot of it has to do with an extremely welcoming community of bloggers.

So now as my summer begins to close, and I think about returning to my classroom, I am confident my pace will continue as is, and I will forever delight in the fabulous array of creative and genuine energy these pages offer all of us.

I thank you from the bottom of my heart for allowing me to be a writer, again.

Thom

 

A Conversation (prose)

peace

dialogue

I went to lunch with a friend today and we got onto the subject of coping skills. We’re both teachers and we encounter a lot of teenagers on a regular basis, most of which carry a lot of baggage into the classroom each day. There are times when we truly do not get the full extent of what is happening in their lives being so caught up in our own need to deliver an assignment, a lesson plan, an expectation. We seldom take the time to ponder a world outside of our own.

My friend began the dialogue by referencing a particularly charming young individual whom we both have had extensive interactions with. I mentioned this student’s personal struggles, and he agreed and we both immediately remarked about how this young person’s integrity is such a measure of their character surrounded by the constraints of having to survive in a society that can be ruthless and demanding. I looked at my friend and remarked about how times like this make my more prominent issues become rather trivial and this reality leaves me feeling shallow in the light of another’s personal struggles. He followed with a theory that we all provide ‘gifts’ in our own unique manner. I knew what he was saying but it certainly didn’t give me an opportunity to feel like I was off the hook.

We both chose teaching for the chance to change people’s lives in a positive way. We certainly didn’t choose this profession with a goal in mind to make our charges feel miserable. In education today, we are in an ever-changing atmosphere of new initiatives and proposals to address and hopefully change the way we teach our students. A lot of that focus is to better education, and reduce the constant scrutiny that schools, and more importantly in this case, teachers receive in regards to their ability to prepare children for a successful future. Conversations like this one often leave me feeling curious, not confused mind you, but simply wanton of a solution to my purpose both in the classroom and in my life.

Having the ability to know why we are who we are and what we will become is a huge asset when determining our path in life. I can easily use nostalgic memory and pointedly look at different periods of my life and know the mess I was as perceived by the society around me, and with more certainty my own evaluation of my accomplishments as I plodded through a couple of directionless decades of my young adult life. Today, I look back and recognize the frailties of my actions, and I also am left to consider how my life choices might have brought different results had I been more conscious of my future. I may sit in a room of group recovery and not have to wait long before someone makes the common remark, “I don’t regret any of the mistakes I made in my life. They have helped me become the person I am today.” Though there certainly is truth to that analogy, one must I believe, also acknowledge that those ‘life-changing’ mistakes could have been easily avoided, and life might have been a tad easier than the challenges that consumed the reparation of those errors. Ok, so back to my point of conversation amongst friends.

What today’s conversation left me with is contemplating how relative our lives may be in the bigger scheme of things. That seems like a shallow outcome at this writing, but it is what I am left with at the moment. When I think about a student who has lost someone at a young age, and is asked to return to their daily identity without missing a beat, I find myself rather impressed with that resilience. That reality makes my life feel trivial as I said earlier, so what do I do about it? Here is my partial solution.

I will appreciate the beauty of their being, their ability to endure the travesty or choices that have been placed before them, certainly not their own choosing. I will offer my own support and admiration for their ability to capture the true essence of natural humility that has allowed their lives to become easier within the face of pure terror and sadness, and express my gratitude for their showing me how to recognize the sweeter realities of our existence as human beings on this earth.

Feels like a God moment to me now … I do cherish these conversations!

Lest We Forget We are Human Beings -prose-

human condition

There’s a famous line in the relatively obscure movie Freedom Writers that has stuck with me since the first time I heard it in context. ‘You know what’s gonna happen when you die? You’re gonna rot in the ground.” – Erin Gruwell. The context speaks to a young African American student wanting to be recognized as an original gangster – instead of living by society’s standards. I’m struggling with this statement today as I recognize the loss of another young man in our community to drugs. I want people to remember him. I want people to recognize the value of genuine beauty he brought to the people he interacted with in his world. I don’t want people to remember the mistakes he made that cost him his life. He was just growing up, and he made an egregious decision that effected his well being, and it ultimately tested his mortality and won.

I have spent a lot of the last week pouring over his Facebook page looking at the commentary from his friends that supported his recovery; a constant barrage of positive words in countless threads offering hope and prayer for this delightfully idyllic young man. Those posting are gradually moving to quiet and heart-felt memorials, as people begin to recognize his hours are now seemingly limited, perhaps reached at this writing, and people are now asked to remember his spirit and the moments that he touched their lives with his remarkable energy. I glance back at that opening comment in the movie, and I realize it was delivered harshly to drum home an important point. We cannot, no one in fact, overcome the grasp of our human condition’s mortality.

The time for this young man to depart may very well have been far too soon for those closest to him; indeed, also for those whose love for him goes well beyond an occasional encounter, those who knew of his positive spirit at parties and gatherings, those who remember his dynamic upon entering any room of people. Yet, today I wonder if this might be God’s plan. Are we not often asked to face our important decisions when we experience a major crisis? Does that moment often not change our lives, or at least put us in a position to start to actively make healthier choices? Perhaps we need to really grasp the reality of this occasion and recognize that this young man’s early departure is meant as a harsh learning tool for those closest to him, beyond the agonizing family, and more directly to the people in his social circles that likely carry on similar lifestyles.

So when I speak of the beauty of a young man, I also ask that all of you, young people and old please respect the diligent nature of artificial stimuli that is not meant to interact with your human capacity. I ask all of you to speak to each other, and help one another know there are other healthier departures from the daily grind, than the insidious gesture of testing your mortality at the hands of an illicit drug of choice.

I am my own example of the harsh reality of drug and alcohol use. I am standing here today with an addictive personality. I am realizing how vulnerable we all are to our own selfish pursuits, even when we’re not aware of how quickly these ideals may turn our lives upside down. I have experienced consequence, and am perhaps fortunate that my actions did not sacrifice my own humanity when as a young experimenter I thought I could beat any challenge. Today, I know I cannot and know I have to take a higher road, and acknowledge the damage that drugs could very well continue to wreak upon my life. I now look towards my children, my students, and anyone that feels they have that ticket to escape the fragile reality of our mortality and I plead with all of them, I beg all of you to take a pause, be grateful, and go forward with your life in a healthy and respectful manner.

Rest in peace and Godspeed to our good young man of smiles. Others will certainly join you very soon on this fast course to immortality. Eventually we will all be there with you as the natural course of time calls out our number. I hope that your example can help a few fend off that early departure from life as we know it today.