As I mentioned last post, I recently had the opportunity to speak to several 4th and 5th graders about being a writer and how to improve their school and their community. I approached the day of my talk with some trepidation. How would I take many of the seemingly complex subjects we discuss on this website and in my book and convey them to these young children? After all, many adults take a while to grasp some of the concepts! Then the above quote from Albert Einstein came to mind. “If you can’t explain it simply, you do not understand it well enough.”
These wonderful young people were giving me a great opportunity to learn a new way to convey my teachings in a simpler format. Could that be done? I recall one of my favorite virtual teachers growing up, Mr. Rogers. His children’s television program routinely tackled very complicated subjects such as death and divorce and broke them down to simple ideas children would understand. I would do the same with the issues I believe allow young people to make a big difference in their community. I wanted them to know that each of us has a unique and special talent, different from our friends and family, but just as important. I wanted to show them the different talents people were using to better our community. We have artists painting murals on several buildings throughout the city. Those are artists using their talents. We have engineers that are redesigning streets to make them safer and easier to travel on. Those are people using talents in math, design and many other skills. It is by pursuing what you enjoy and are passionate about that can lead to a better community. A city full of people pursuing their passions would be a great community indeed.
I also wanted to instill the idea of believing in yourself and your dreams, even if others don’t and it may seem as if they are right. My grandfather, the older person in the picture above, only had an 8th grade education due to growing up during the depression. Despite this challenge, he ended up teaching college welding classes. He did so because that was his passion and he invested in teaching himself. In my own journey, as some of you may know, I was told by a well-meaning English professor that I should never pursue a career in writing. The sad truth is many people cannot see what talents may lay untapped inside of us. In fact, it may take us a while to see and believe in those talents ourselves. If I had listened to that English teacher I would have never written my book that has touched thousands of lives.
Bullying. The last bit of information I wanted to relay to these amazing young people was the need to work together. Especially in today’s world, we are connected more than ever. Not a day goes by that we do not rely on others for things we do and use. Anywhere from the engineers I mentioned earlier that design the streets we drive on, to the people who make our clothes we live in and the cars we drive. There is the farmers who help bring food to our table, the garbage men and women who make sure our waste does not collect rats and flies to, of course, our amazing teachers who instruct and inspire our young.
I used an example to speak to children, but I think it can benefit adults as well. Think of the Avengers. It is a group of different super heroes. Each one has their own talent. Spiderman can climb tall buildings where the Hulk cannot. If they were to arm wrestle the Hulk would win every time. Each super hero has their own talent, but they can do the most good when they work together. Each hero brings something different they can do well, even if it is different from what we can do well. We all have our own ‘super power’. What creates great change and a great community is when all of us ‘super heroes’ come together and use our super powers to make our schools, families and communities better.
I am so grateful to the three teachers who gave me the great opportunity to not only speak to and inspire and empower their students, but who forced me to take a new look at what I teach and to be able to pass that knowledge on to young people. If we can teach our children how best to be not only good citizens, but good neighbors and good people, we have done a great gift to our world and to our future. It is with that thought in mind I want to take a moment to acknowledge the effort and difference teachers of all kinds make in the world. They have not only one of the greatest responsibilities and one of most difficult jobs, but one of the most noble – shaping our future through the lives of the young.