Bird Droppings October 28, 2009
The Journey Part 2
I had the opportunity to visit and observe in a class room this time last year. To actually visit and see this particular class had been a dream of mine for some time. I have been a fan of Foxfire for many years now probably since I first picked up Foxfire 2 in 1973 and actually sort of used Foxfire ideas in my own teaching for many years even before I knew it was an actual teaching method. Foxfire has been a class at the Rabun County High School for over forty years continuously. The current class has continued the tradition of producing the semi annual Foxfire magazine of articles and lore of Appalachia. After my visit last year I went to lunch with the liaison between Foxfire and Piedmont College and then on to the Foxfire museum to research my dissertation which of course is about Foxfire.
Years ago as I did writing and research on hand spinning and sheep production in Georgia I had the opportunity to meet many of the folks that the magazine has written about over the years. Needless to say it was a busy day and a heart felt and great time for me as I photographed and wandered about North Georgia. If all goes well this week I will be heading back up later in the week for another visit and hopefully as next semester comes round quite a few visits.
“And how high can you fly with broken wings? Life’s a journey not a destination and I just can’t tell just what tomorrow brings. You have to learn to crawl before you learn to walk.” Steven Tyler, Aerosmith
For so many years I have seen a line from this song by Aerosmith, taken from the context of the song, “Life is a journey not a destination”. I think back to when I first saw it posted on my computer after spending the night at the Athens Regional Hospital in Athens Georgia holding the hand of a sixteen year old young man who had been hit by a semi after doing a u turn on a back road. My oldest son and his band played and covered Aerosmith tunes quite often at the time and he was very familiar with the music and words. But this line was from a song that in and of itself was significant for him and for me at that moment in our lives.
For me it evolved as I saw how my own life was a journey each day and each moment. As we see each aspect of life crucial to the next and that one to the next as pieces fell into place. In days prior I had been reading numerous books on the purpose in life and or on finding Meaning in life, trying to find a focus for myself but also as I engaged teenagers this is always a topic that comes up. Back when I first saw this quote I was floundering in business and trying to get a foothold and a yellow post it note on a computer after sitting with a dying teenager came to be a life changing or life refocusing moment. My blurry vision seemed to clear.
It was perhaps a moment to piece together the few days before. This young man was a clown, the life of any party, a real character and all felt that way about him. I knew him from a youth group at a local church where my own children were involved and I helped out periodically. The weekend before the accident we had all been tubing in North Georgia. As we do we stopped for dinner after being on the river all day. I think it was a Colonel Sanders fast food sort of place. As we were getting ready to leave this young man walks up extending his hand to me as he always does and always at the last minute he pulls it away and makes a joke just not fast enough Mr. Bird or something along that line. But this time the hand doesn’t move no laughing and no jokes he commented to me “not this time”. We shook hands for a longer moment than normal and it did not sink in as that was the last I saw him till I sat with him at the hospital.
That was a number of years ago and when I returned to the house to write as I do every morning a small yellow note attached to my computer read in my son’s handwriting “Life is a journey not a destination”. Tears welled up in my eyes as I thought how profound for my son barely older than the young man who was killed to have found this concept and I had been searching for nearly fifty years and still had not seen. My own life started to focus and clear and ideas thoughts seemed to flow and make sense. Earlier in the week I was answering an email from someone I have never met. I was talking with several teachers, professors and students in my visits how we can in today’s electronic age communicate with so many people all in a touch of a computer keyboard or mouse click. Many times that message includes photos, graphs, power points and such attached, we are into multimedia. But the message is still so clear, it is about the journey.
Another email answered was “If you believe in God respond” sort of if you do not you are going to hell. As I read the note and thought how easy to respond one way or another perhaps in a theological dissertation on ramifications of believing or not and or of what it is you do or do not believe in. It was then the journey hit me again it is about the journey not the destination. So I offered the writer it is so easy to say you believe in God or the tooth fairy it is far more difficult to live the life you say you believe in but this is what is seen and felt by others. For it is others who see your journey not your destination. So I wrote on and wandered as I do I tried in several previous quotes I had used about out the journey, parents, teachers, friends and that it is the example we set that picture we paint for others to see that has significance and meaning.
What would a child learn from a teacher who yells at an extremely high decibel other than to cover their ears? What does a child learn from a parent who abuses them other than abuse? What does a friend learn from a friend when they betray them other than distrust? Within the fragility of our experiences we need examples of direction of positive journeying. I am still fascinated with a friend who had been doing work with eldering, helping young people along the pathway in life.
Each day I wonder why kids come by my room just to smile and say hi and other times to ask for a word or two of advice. Thinking back nearly a year now as I addressed the Foxfire class I asked how many of you want to be in this class right now. All raised their hands and I said when students want to be in a class they learn and can not help it. It is those who do not want to be in that class that makes it hard for everyone else. Even staying in Loganville I journeyed yesterday and every moment was a new experience. Life is about the journey and may we all be cleaning the pathway rather than dropping builders for others to trip on. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.