A love of learning

Bird Droppings March 23, 2011
A love of learning

A few days ago a young lady who happens to work in a western wear store had on a Dixie Outfitter’s shirt. One of the issues with the Dixie Outfitters clothing line is the confederate flags which adorn the T-shirts. Most schools today have dress code rules against defamatory and or controversial logos and or slogans. Malcolm X shirts and Dixie Outfitters are actually listed in most dress code rulings. This shirt looked like a Dixie Outfitter shirt same colors and sequence of colors but no confederate flags. The interesting statement on the back was to the effect you can ban the symbol but not the meaning or colors.

“The greatest glory in living lies not, in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” Nelson Mandela

I recall a year or so ago and a stubborn student. We had been trying to look at why do we have a dress code which was again based on a student wearing a Dixie Outfitters sweat shirt and my students reason was as to why wear a shirt you know is against dress code, whatever or because. How he responded was that he knew he could get suspended since he had been warned numerous times. However the larger issue is how children at such a young age quit learning and quit questioning life. Why are they suppressed and defeated to a point of using whatever as an answer. Whatever is a quitter’s statement. Had that student answered with arguable statements from the rightwing Dixie Outfitters website I would have known there was thought behind the action and not ignorance.

“From an early age we all question. As children grow, their questions are often answered, explained, and rationalized until their natural curiosity begins to be submerged. Yet sensitive persons, at one -time or another, find themselves again asking those same questions: “Where did I come from? What is the meaning of life? What happens when I die? Why is there so much hatred and violence? Who am I?” Zenson Gifford Sense, Abbot of the Northern Zen Sangha

I had another student stop in and thank me for lending them Kent Nerburn’s book Small Graces and as we talked for a few minutes she asked “Mr. Bird you love learning don’t you” I am not easily sat back but I had to think for a moment and some where between the two quotes is an answer. I have never being satisfied with an answer always seeking, looking and enjoying the search to find out more about whatever it is I was pondering. I responded to her question with several answers, I basically said yes, but that is the hardest thing to share a passion for learning. Robert Fried’s book “The Passionate Teacher” is a good example as he discusses sharing a passion for learning.
How do we re-instill the questioning? In 1962 Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for life for questioning the then current government of South Africa and was released from prison in 1990 to become the first black elected in a general election, and to the office of President of South Africa. Mandela could have quit and had he succumbed to his captors desires and been released. He chose to stay in prison nearly twenty seven years.

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. “ Nelson Mandela

“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.” Nelson Mandela, ‘A Long Walk to Freedom

Mr. Nelson Mandela was awarded the Noble Peace prize and helped South Africa in their start towards real democracy. He did this through persistence and never quitting and always questioning.

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. “ Albert Einstein

Why children stop questioning and stop desiring to learn I am not quite sure. Perhaps it is their home life. Perhaps for some it is boredom. Perhaps they have all they need to feed and clothe themselves and that is enough.

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Maybe it is just too easy to follow the path each day and walk where others have tread. Years ago when I would regularly get into the woods looking for wildlife we would find rabbit trails and deer trails worn by constant use. Children do the same simply following in the footsteps of the one in front one after another.

“People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of their character.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I guess I have a difficult time with people sometimes seeing them as ignorant when they use “because” as an answer as it is used so often. Perhaps second in usage is “whatever” from teenagers and so many people when they choose to not answer a question.

“Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sitting around waiting for “luck” or the sky to fall which ever comes first. As a child I remember the story of Chicken Little and the sky is falling soon the whole barn yard was afraid of the sky falling all because an ignorant little chicken got hit in the head with a pebble and assumed the sky was falling and enough others listened.

“But education is more than schooling. It is a cast of mind, a willingness to see the world with an endless sense of curiosity and wonder. If you would be truly educated, you must adopt this cast of mind. You must open yourself to the richness of your everyday experience — to your own emotions, to the movements of the heavens and languages of birds, to the privations and successes of people in other lands and other times, to the artistry in the hands of the mechanic and the typist and the child. There is no limit to the learning that appears before us. It is enough to fill us each day a thousand times over. “Kent Nerburn, On Education and Learning

I have used this passage before but I have also used the FIDO principle before too and never can we emphasize enough when offering an idea especially a good one. It has been nearly fifty years since it was conceived, the idea of Frequency, Intensity, Duration, and Over again hence the anachronism, FIDO. Continue questioning never stop become a child again in learning these are things we need to do. When I was asked do I love learning what should have been asked is what got me questioning again? That is the secret what gets us back to that place where we crave learning and we love learning as we did when we were small children and every aspect of life was a question and answer. Please keep all in harms way in your hearts and on your mind.


Bird Droppings March 22, 2011

Far too often we forget to be thankful for what we have and perhaps for what we do not have. I tend to rise at an early hour and sit check emails and review ideas for my daily journaling and of late go in to see if my grandbaby is sleeping. Today was no exception and standing looking at her holding on to a tiny teddy bear that she plays with sound asleep makes for a great start to a day. I walked outside since our dog was being lazy and would not wake up so my journey into the darkness was alone. I stood for several minutes listening and looking listening and seeing a world coming awake. The super moon was slowly dissipating and now at about three quarters of what it was only a few nights back. The night creatures were quiet as the ambient temperature was hovering around fifty degrees a bit cold for crickets and tree frogs. So the call of a bird out in the meadow was about the only sound of the morning. I found my self giving thanks for all that was.

“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” Meister Eckhart

Thinking back over the years waking up the morning after a family tragedy, it is a bit easier with each hour and each offering of condolence. With each thank you it seems it becomes easier to smile. Most folks are still asleep as I sit here putting my thoughts in gear. I started burning a candle on my desk a few weeks back and the flickering provides a nice ambiance as I write. When I saw Eckhart’s quote the so many days ago my first thought was to save it and use it on Thanksgiving Day but as the past few days so many words have been exchanged and each time a heart felt thank you. I really think it goes beyond a day or a situation.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” Melody Beattie

“Feeling grateful or appreciative of someone or something in your life actually attracts more of the things that you appreciate and value into your life.” Northrup Christine

Being grateful opens doors and let’s people in which provides for each person to go beyond that point to which they started. It allows us to share. Gratitude is an aspect of the heart, an opening of the door to the heart. Gratefulness can lift you up and take you beyond where you are now because it is providing additional hands and strength.

“Gratitude is the heart’s memory.” French Proverb

“It is another’s fault if he is ungrateful, but it is mine if I do not give. To find one thankful man, I will oblige a great many that are not so.” Seneca

Gratitude requires giving and in giving we are also offering of ourselves and building up within our own hearts and souls. It is part of being human of being vulnerable. It is an aspect of love to share and except in return. Gratitude is a closeness of human understanding as we journey through life.

“The human contribution is the essential ingredient. It is only in the giving of oneself to others that we truly live.” Ethel Percy Andrus

“It is possible to give without loving, but it is impossible to love without giving.” Richard Braustein

Life is about giving, what you offer to others is how and where you are placed in life and many times provides the vehicle for you journey through life. As I walked about the school yesterday and people asked “how are you”? Or offered their condolences and I returned the kindness with a thank you, I was being lifted up as were they. Each person each word added to my own understanding of where I was and who I was and why I was feeling all I was feeling. So often in Native American thought the circle is used showing how life is about the repetition the return to where we came from.

“In helping others, we shall help ourselves, for whatever good we give out completes the circle and comes back to us.” Flora Edwards

“You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” Kahlil Gibran

So often we think of giving simply as offering a bit of money or food, but in reality giving of your self is the hardest and most rewarding. Caring about people and sharing is much harder than simply providing a dollar or a can. For many years on my wall was the Zen saying of; “You can give a man a fish and feed him for a day or teach a man to fish and feed him for life.” Often I have found teachers teach for gratitude. That sense of having taught of having provided the means for a student to lift themselves up. I use the term symbiotic in relation to teaching. Gratitude as well is symbiotic it is both giving and receiving. The gratitude comes back within our hearts.

“He who obtains has little. He who scatters has much.” Lao Tzu

“A handful of pine-seed will cover mountains with the green majesty of forests. I too will set my face to the wind and throw my handful of seed on high.” Fiona Macleod

When forester’s timber areas often they will leave several healthy older trees to seed the remaining land. I have been in areas where clear cutting has occurred and several years later a new forest has already started on its own. But it is important to plant seeds to scatter them to be a friend and to let friendships grow.

“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” Mother Teresa

“The more credit you give away, the more will come back to you. The more you help others, the more they will want to help you.” Brian Tracy –

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” Edith Wharton

I remember a candlelight service many years ago one person carefully started and handed their light to another’s candle and each in turn went through the room lighting another’s and soon the room was filled with light. Gratitude is much like a candle light service. If we share our light and love and pass it on to the person next to you it grows and illuminates. If we say thank you as you receive from another and offer always to another. What power and strength can we gain? So often life hands us unexpected surprises and gratitude extends and magnifies those times. So please as we get into a new day keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Children learn what they teach

Bird Droppings March 21, 2011
Children Teach what they Live

It is a dreary and overcast morning and quiet out side cool not cold and the weather person said might get up to 70 degrees today in the afternoon. So it is not a bad day but not quite as nice as it has been possible rain as well. Standing earlier walking our dog there was little in terms of any sounds the overcast heavy air muffling the human side of noise around me. I heard nothing as I stood even in the background not even crickets or breeze in the trees. Every morning I have been passing by a bill board and wanting to write about it. It is bold and artistically done for everyone to see; Peace, Paz, Shalom courtesy of the Rotary Club sort of strange for these parts.

“Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.” Will Durant

Several years ago I found this short story on a web site. I have used it several times in meetings and in my daily wanderings. I would like to share today a story from many years ago entitled, Our nature, which is from the Zen thought and writings.

“Two monks were washing their bowls in the river when they noticed a scorpion that was drowning. One monk immediately scooped it up and set it upon the bank. In the process he was stung. He went back to washing his bowl and again the scorpion fell in. The monk saved the scorpion and was again stung. The other monk asked him, ‘Friend, why do you continue to save the scorpion when you know its nature is to sting?’ ‘Because,’ the monk replied, ‘to save it is my nature.’” From the website of Dr. John Suler, Ryder University

As I look at this story there are many reactions to the monk’s response. How foolish is the monk who gets stung. He knows it is a scorpion. He knows scorpions will sting and he has been already stung once. What lesson is being taught in this passage some have said over the year’s stupidity? There is also a similar story Dr. Suler uses from Native American lore of a fox and scorpion crossing a stream. My concern is there are applications to parenting, friendship, teaching within the context of a stinging scorpion? As I read this morning looking through various articles by Dr. Suler and another writer I enjoy immensely Sydney J. Harris, this is a piece of an article from his daily column Strictly Speaking which was in syndication during his lifetime in over 300 papers, this caught my eye.

“The student, who could really get an A if he wanted to, cannot really get an A because he really doesn’t want to. And the wanting to is an essential part of the achieving, not a separate thing, as parents imagine, that can be injected into him like a shot of adrenalin. All genuine and meaningful and lasting motivation comes from the inside, not from the outside. The carrot and the stick work maybe only as long as the carrot is in front and the stick behind. When they are withdrawn, the motivation ceases. You can get a mule to move this way, but not a person for very long.” Sydney J. Harris, Motivation, a key part of Talent

Last week in class listening to students tell why they have low grades several interesting answers, “but I am passing I have a 70” or “what do I need this crap for anyhow”. As I listened and looked through notes and ideas on how do we instill the idea of motivation in a child or student? I found most of the students yesterday when told about the monk getting stung would say he was stupid, just step on the scorpion, why waste your time. Occasionally a person will pop up and say, “The scorpion has a right to live too and that is why the monk helped it”.
Somewhere when I first started working with children back in the dark ages I found a poster, “Children Learn what they Live” which was written by Dr. Dorothy Nolte Ph.D., in 1972 and goes as follows:

Children Learn What They Live
By Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith
in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn
the world is a nice place in which to live.
Copyright © 1972 by Dorothy Law Nolte

Sydney Harris couldn’t put a finger on motivation as he mentions in his article how parents want it to be like adrenaline and we could give a shot of motivation. The monk showing kindness to the scorpion is an attribute that had been learned by observation by seeing and by example. I believe motivation is from inside as Harris states and as Dr. Nolte so eloquently points out in 20 or so statements. It is what children see and feel as they grow that provides them with that inner drive that inner spark. Children do learn what they live and as parents and teachers we are modeling their future. We are what they will be and can be.

“If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and others.” Dr. Nolte

It is really is not that difficult when we look at kids? How can we expect a child to be motivated to succeed if we take away any of the twenty or so possibilities presented in Dr. Nolte’s chart. No matter how big the carrot dangled it must come from within, and eventually we as teachers, parents, and friends need to be providing that support and effort. So it is another spring day and a plea to please keep all in harms way in your hearts and on your minds.

PS. Maybe – just maybe it is Dr. Nolte’s thoughts hanging on the wall in my room for the past nearly forty years that keep me going and not to stepping on scorpions.

Trying to understand

Bird Droppings March 19, 2011
Trying to understand

It has been interesting this spring weather wise. I have been battling allergies and sinus issues daily between freezes and rain and then not enough rain and the pollen. When I headed to school today I had been thinking about the many years of daily writing and journaling of my ideas and thoughts. Many times as I have written over the past years the word perception has come up. I was thinking back one night as we were finishing up a semester I was sitting and posting on our discussion post on the internet as friends and fellow graduate students we were discussing critical race feminism which ties in sex, race, culture, and ethics and to some extent then education. The idea of perception was brought up numerous times as in this course of study for many it has been an opening of eyes that had been closed.
I am an observer by nature and many the times as I walk into someone else’s office or study I immediately peruse the books and items on shelves and desks. I see the papers, the order of items, or lack of order and the amazingly you can quickly make assumptions about that individual. In my own case if someone walked into my writing hovel they would see animal books and magazines as my oldest son also stacks various reading material among my own. There are many years of theology and spiritual matters along with numerous translations of religious texts, and bibles. In stacks many informational texts, child craft, notes from graduate school, and psychology texts scattered among the piles and shelves.
An individual’s personality exists within the piles and various items or at least a perception of who they are. In my case in a quick look you would see several books, Spirit Dance by William Edelen, Red Pedagogy by Sandy Grande, The Passionate Teacher by Robert Fried, Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield, a book on Great quotes, The purpose for your life by Carol Adrienne, The Handicapped child in the classroom, Ten Stupid things men do to mess up their life’s by Dr. Laura, A passion for excellence by Tom Peters, Control of Human Behavior, Safety and the Bottom line by Frank E. Bird Jr. It is these books that are on top of piles on my table and desk. Always wondered could a psychological analysis be made of me from those texts sitting out perhaps recent readings or reference sources? Something could be said; perhaps a perception, an opinion, or an assumption could be made about the person.

“Except for the still point there would be no dance ……. And there is only the dance.” William Edelen starts his book Spirit Dance with that line from T.S. Elliot

I sit thinking about that line do we have a still point? Last night as I was reading comments as fellow teachers and future teachers discussed their views and realities in a discussion board on line and as we are trying to finish out the year working with students who are waiting for the last few minutes of the last day before summer break. We are using the word senioritis as we address the seniors here in high schools that seem lost in oblivion as their last year winds down. It can be a teenager in the last thirty seconds of school or a graduate student in the last thirty seconds posting before break. “And there is only the dance”
I looked through my book of quotes a little collection of quotes from my first year back teaching containing poems from myself and others and photos of students school etc. sort of a mini yearbook, always coincidences. I found a Garth Brooks song lyric. The song is The Dance written by Tony Arata, my brother in laws room mate in college at Georgia Southern many years ago.

“And now I’m glad I didn’t know the way it all would end the way it all would go.
Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain but I’d of had to miss the dance.” Tony Arata

Thinking about the dance in reference to Elliot’s line and Arata’s line it is about who we are inside and how we see the world. So often in life we want to avoid problems. I am finding as I grow older it is the problems and tribulations that give us the pieces of who we are. It is all of this history that gives us our out look on life, our perception as we view the world. Wandering to back to my graduate school posting discussion as we learned over the semester everyone has a history and it is within that history we can only get a true understanding of who they are. Not really knowing a person history can alter your perception of them.
As I paged through my little book I had copied nearly ten years ago I found a note I had written evidently this book was one of my students. The student had wanted me to write a personal note so I kept the book and then school was over and she never picked up her book and I wrote a second note. As I look back it brings a tear. It seems she quit school with graduation test difficulty found a new boyfriend fiancée and got married and pregnant, sort of all in one fell swoop. Was this a success or failure from a teaching standpoint, did we reach that child. I am sure some would say no.
It has been nearly forty years since I first started teaching. A few years back I had a professor who was ten years old in public school in Macon Georgia when I moved to that town in 1971 or so. Back in the day special needs kids were not all being served in public school IDEA legislation went into effect in 1974. One of my first jobs in education in Macon was a child find. Thirty eight years ago there were not IEP’s or mandatory education for all children. Many disabled students often just stayed home since there really was no place for them in the schools at that time. We found 278 children and adults in less than 90 days who were not being served and we were looking for 50 to start our program.
In those days 1970 – 1973 it wasn’t about curriculum or text books or even lesson plans it was simply students who had never been served. In and among those students was a young black Down’s syndrome fellow, Sammy Jones age 24. He was friendly clean cut and always fixing his hair, checking his shirt to be sure it was tucked and adjusting his belt always making sure every thing was just right. He would be a poster child for correct dress code, always immaculate. Sammy would always somehow bring up “big momma”, seems he called his mother “big momma”.
I remember one day after we started up our daily program and Sammy was in “school” his excuse to not do work would be “big momma said I don’t have to do that” when he didn’t want to do something. I recall Sammy’s favorite class was nap time. As I think back to my first days teaching in Georgia it has been some time since I really thought about Ms. Rawl’s and Lucky Duck nursery where my late brother John attended school when we first moved to Macon. A matter of perception perhaps it seems the promised school to get my father to move his business to Macon never materialized and my brother became the token white boy in an all black school. My brother John was “bussed” in.
The funny thing was Ms. Rawls, my mother and I ended up writing federal grant that got initial funding in Macon for disabled children. There was a significant clause, the schools had to integrate. A coincidence perhaps, but as I think back and remember driving across town to that old school to pick up John at Lucky Duck he wasn’t a token child he was a child at a school and for him every day he would be smiling not one time did John get upset about his school I never remember my mother complaining about where he was going to school I do remember Ms. Rawls and how much concern she had for John. Maybe our perception was different back then. As I think back my mothers and my own I do not think changed significantly but many others did.

“No one would have ever crossed the ocean if he could have gotten off in the storm” Charles Kettering

It takes getting across the sea to arrive at the other side when the storms get rough quitting is not an option. So many people when times are rough choose getting off in the storm but far too often the waves and turmoil do them in. It is about in life how we perceive and how we see the world around us. A few minutes ago several of us were talking in the hall and a student mentioned she paid eighty dollars for a pair of jeans that was a mass of holes. Our discussion went to how people are paid to make holes in jeans which are then sold. Perception, I have jeans with significant holes in them each earned and remembered. A wonderful day a quiet day but in the turmoil and strife please keep all in harms way on my mind and in your hearts today as the bombings and such continue in the middle east let us strive for peace

HAve we sold our souls?

Bird Droppings March 18, 2011
Have we sold our souls?

Morning is a special time for me a beginning is an easy way to say it. Today I went out a bit early from the house to gas up my wives car. As I drove back to the house an owl was sitting on the road and flew away as I drove up giving me an interesting start today. But for me several aspects of that start to the day almost are routine like taking our dog out, then sitting down for writing and reading each has become a significant part of my day. I walked out this morning and felt the coldness of perhaps hopefully the end of our winter as we close in on spring. Across the sky stars literally alive and constellations everywhere, the stars were crystal clear in the morning darkness and the moon nearing fullness and the super moon of the next few days.

“Life is raw material. We are artisans. We can sculpt our existence into something beautiful, or debase it into ugliness. It’s in our hands.” Cathy Better

Yesterday I got into a discussion about a Bird Dropping from a day or two ago dealing with sacredness. In the course of the discussion I began to realize how much we have in our hedonism given away. I wrote a paper on the stripping of soul from students as we demand and seek higher test scores as a means of showing learning. I listened last night to update on the years ago shootings at Virginia Tech and history of a young man and his anguish and angst that lead to it. They pointed to his observations and experiences with the hedonism of our society he in his questioning and counseling was mentioning over and over in his rants. I began seriously thinking have we sold our souls for a few mere trinkets?

“It is not how many years we live, but rather what we do with them.” Evangeline Cory Booth

“Your life and my life flow into each other as wave flows into wave, and unless there is peace and joy and freedom for you, there can be no real peace or joy or freedom for me. To see reality–not as we expect it to be but as it is–is to see that unless we live for each other and in and through each other, we do not really live very satisfactorily; that there can really be life only where there really is, in just this sense, love.” Frederick Buechner

Last night I sat down thinking and trying to put down words perhaps meaningful written pictures that may have significance. I emailed several people last night just touching base opening discussion about this idea of sacredness. But as I thought the interactions and intertwining of life that occur daily those we seemingly miss and ignore. I was talking with several high school students about how life is much like a puzzle interlocked one piece to the next and we tend too often miss seeing the tiny yet needed interconnections. Watching the news and each new report bits and pieces of how and why the events of the past few days have spilled out in Japan and in Libya. I recall many years back when I suggested psychiatric treatment for a student and was told not my call. Six years later he is sentenced to three life sentences for killing a mother and nearly killing two children he baby sat for. Sometimes those at the top may need to listen.

“If, after all, men cannot always make history have meaning, they can always act so that their own lives have one.” Albert Camus

“The tragedy of life is not so much what men suffer, but rather what they miss.” Thomas Carlyle

As I moved through the day yesterday sensing something was amiss and even after knowing it is difficult to offer from a distance any sort of comfort to those in need other than keeping them on our minds and in our hearts. Most people as the day finished never missed a stride I am sure in Japan there were tears from family, friends and those that know the victims of the earth quake and tsunami. But as I tried to explain even in tragedy there is purpose and meaning. That concept is difficult to explain to people who live in a materialistic universe.

“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” Crowfoot

I have used this quote several times and each time it seems appropriate. I remember as a child chasing fireflies across a meadow gathering those life forces in a jar to light my room and then releasing into the night watching them float away in the darkness. Life is seeing beyond the tangibles and foibles of our existence. Life is not the shirt, shoes or coat we wear. Life is about what is in your heart. Life is about your soul.

“It’s not how long life is but the quality of our life that is important.” Roger Dawson

“Life is made of ever so many partings welded together.” Charles Dickens

In 1996 my brother passed away and my family was faced with a new beginning. We all had built our lives around my brother. He was severely disabled and our being in Georgia was directly related to him. As we celebrated his life reviewing the intricate webs that were laid each moment and the many people touched and lives affected what seemingly had been was now an enormous out pouring of life. Every day a new piece of that puzzle falls into place. It may be another teacher of special needs children, another person recalling the time spent helping with John’s rehab and how it impacted their life. Within our difficulties and disasters always there is hope.

“Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent. We would not dare to conceive the things which are really merely commonplaces of existence. If we could fly out of that window hand in hand, hover over this great city, gently remove the roofs and peep in at the queer things which are going on, the strange coincidences, the planning, the cross-purposes, the wonderful chain of events, working through generations and leading to the most outer results, it would make all fiction with its conventionalities and foreseen conclusions most stale and unprofitable.” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

We each approach the morning in a different way I embrace the day and begin with my writing seeing each moment then unfold trying to understand each tiny piece. Since 1996 I have taken many different roads and journeys and as I look back each has had meaning and direction and led me to now. I told a dear friend while I am always wondering where I am to be next it is not because I do not enjoy what I am doing but because I may be needed elsewhere. It is about taking and experiencing the journey.

“Life is about the journey not the destination” Steven Tyler

Several years ago I received a call from my nephew that a close friend had been in a car accident and as the night proceeded I spent the night in the Athens Hospital holding a young man’s hand as monitors beeped and droned and he lay unmoving. We were all hoping that the numbers on the dials would change, they did not. When I arrived home on my computer was a sticky yellow note from my oldest son, the Steven Tyler quote from an Aerosmith song. As I think even farther back and as I was discussing sacred yesterday with a student, in 1968 as I left for Texas for college I received a book from my parents on page 596.

“To everything there is season, and a time, To every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;” Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

Many years ago Pete Seeger a folk singer and environmentalist wrote music and borrowed the words, a song was born “Turn Turn Turn” soon to be released by how appropriate “The Byrd’s”. “To every season turn turn turn there is a reason turn turn turn and a time for every purpose under heaven” the song became a hit.

“Nothing is beneath you if it is in the direction of your life.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It goes on.” Robert Frost

So often a poets words offer comfort or give direction back to a journey set off course one moment. There is no filling of a void yet when looking at life and all that has been, when looking at the journey to now there truly is no void. There is a turn in the road a new direction all that has lead to this point has not changed and is there behind us lifting us guiding us strengthening us as we continue our experiences. I remember back to a photo of my son crossing a stream in north Georgia all ready sopping wet from falling in but still intent on making it across. He clambered stone by stone crossing the stream and a favorite Zen saying I often attach to the photo.

“You can never cross a stream the same way twice.” Zen Saying

We all can cross in our own time and there times when a hand is welcome. Years ago I set up a website for a youth group and today I will close with the starting line from that website “Friends are never alone”. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and today keep those friends who may need extra support close at hand.

Listening to Southern Rock and Roll

Bird Droppings March 17, 2011
Listening to southern rock and roll

Today as I am sitting quietly typing and listening to The Allman Brothers Band playing. Yesterday I received an email from a friend who had just moved it seems there were few jobs in her immediate area and application after application had turned up zero prospects. On a whim she went looking in next county and three openings and three interviews and in what she consider her ideal school, the principal after her interview came into parking lot before she could leave and offered her a job. Sometimes there are reasons for things to be as they are and why we end up where we do and meet who we meet and the journey continues.
Years ago I worked in Macon while in seminary, at the Macon Day Care center. Everyday limos would pull up with attractive jean clad young mothers and their children. An attorney like figure would pay in cash each week for the five or so children and The Allman Brothers Band’s children would be like every other child at school after the limos left. I always wondered why with their money they chose that center where nearly all were welfare children. I never thought to ask way back when. All the band’s school age children went to public school as well which was interesting in a time when most white children were scurrying off to private schools back in the early 1970’s.
Another little tidbit way back when I started a program called Beehive project a Saturday recreation program and temporary care facility for severely disabled children and adults and guess where first check came from? A call one day came to come down to the Macon Boys Club and surprise, The Allman Brothers Band was a big supporter of Macon Boys Club donating that same day a quarter of million dollars for a new center but also a ten thousand dollar check for Beehive Project which were the only two programs receiving checks. Sadly I did not get a photo as I received the check from Dicky Betts and Dwayne Allaman and or copy the check.
Today as I am listening to The Allman Brothers Band and I am reminded of a funny thing many years back in a graduate school law class, the professor raised a point about the four things you have to do if you live in Georgia.
1. Go to the Masters to at least see the course
2. Go to Savannah for St. Patrick’s Day
3. Go to a University of Florida versus University of Georgia football game
4. See an Allman’s Brother Band concert
So as I thought about his ideas I looked over how well I have done in over thirty years living in Georgia. On number one, I don’t golf but have seen originals oils of all masters’ holes at a studio in Callaway Gardens and seen the course live. A leading golf course painter has his studio and art gallery there and by chance or coincidence I was looking at another artists work at his gallery. On item number two I have been to Savannah enough times. The paper mill smell keeps me away although living in Macon Georgia for several years that was a common smell in the evenings as well. Number three is difficult for me and is a critical one since my middle son i\graduated from Georgia Tech the arch rival of University of Georgia in every sport. I have to cheer for Tech now. So I am left with number four and have seen the band only eight or ten times maybe that will make up for other three. I have also rocked the band member’s kids to sleep and spoon fed their kids at lunch and shook hands with the band members at the Macon Boys Club.
Also for all the true Allman Brothers fans I have been to dinner with Sandy Blue Sky along with some other friends. “Blue Sky” by Dickey Betts is dedicated to his then wife and for southern rock fans, a really good song. Well everyone will now run out and grab the Live Fillmore East album actually CD since albums are long gone. I started wondering if southern rock is environmental or genetic as each of my kids has compiled their top 100 songs of all time on their computers and it amazes me they each have several from the Allman Brothers Band, midst popular and more contemporary bands as well as such little known songs and groups as Lowden Rainwright III and the Dead Skunk song.
Coincidence as I sit wandering today back to meeting The Allman Brothers band and my professors statement and to a friends search for a job, the journey continues and the pieces will fall in place.

“Walk along the river, sweet lullaby, it just keeps on flowing, It don’t worry bout where it’s going, no, no. Don’t fly, mister blue bird, I’m just walking down the road, Early morning sunshine tell me all I need to know.” Dicky Betts, The Allman Brothers Band

Reading the words to Dicky Betts song and thinking about my own life, and the people I have met along the way. I can not help but think back to the music and words and a philosophy of life that perhaps inspired this song. Years back living in Macon with the Ocmulgee river running through town and spending many days myself walking along the river I wonder how many times I saw that bluebird or sunshine and I wonder how did it affect my own direction in life. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.

Finding the gem?

Bird Droppings March 16, 2011
Finding the gem?

“Author and lecturer Leo Buscaglia once talked about a contest he was asked to judge. The purpose of the contest was to find the most caring child. The following was one of the winners. As I was driving home from work one day, I stopped to watch a local Little League baseball game that was being played in a park near my home. As I sat down behind the bench on the first-base line, I asked one of the boys what the score was. “We’re behind 14 to nothing,” he answered with a smile. “Really,” I said. “I have to say you don’t look very discouraged.” “Discouraged?” the boy asked with a puzzled look on his face. ‘Why should we be discouraged? We haven’t been up to bat yet.’” Author Unknown

Over the years I have found myself often discussing various topics with children. Listening and hearing what children have to say shows an innocence that has been perhaps established at birth as silly as that sounds. It is contained within and it so often shows up in the optimism of children. We hold this till somewhere as adults it can be stripped away because we let our guard down or we become discouraged and we learn otherwise so to say. As teachers and parents it should be our job to try and maintain that youthful zeal that outlook that lets us see opportunity in the midst of seeming defeat.

“I believe that man will not merely endure; he will prevail.” William Faulkner

Sitting here today thinking over events of the past few days I can understand Faulkner’s quote we are a resilient lot and no matter what is thrown at us we can prevail. I started my morning as I do so often stopping by the front desk. Our school office manager in days gone by worked for my father and she always asks how is he doing? Many the days we talk about occasionally a serious topic, today funny we were talking about how kids see things so different. A student had come by the office to check on a parking permit, obviously by the way she was holding her drivers license a new driver. I said when she asked if the assistant principal was here, that school was closed. Our office manager scolded me and told her don’t listen to Mr. Bird he is getting old and cranky. But she had believed me and did not realize I was joking.

“There comes that mysterious meeting in life when someone acknowledges who we are and what we can be, igniting the circuits of our highest potential.” Rusty Berkus

Too often we find the opportunity of defeat but when expectations are high when we are expected to succeed more often than not we do. Many years ago I learned to expect the most out of students and that is what you will get, however expect the least and you will get that as well. This can be said for teachers so students expect the most from a teacher and you may be surprised.

“Rough diamonds may sometimes be mistaken for worthless pebbles.” Sir Thomas Browne

The star of Africa is the largest diamond ever found may have been looked over as a large (the size of a baseball) piece of quartz if the miner did not know what he was looking for those many years ago. Now cut and polished and in the crown jewels of England it is priceless.

“The greatest waste in the world is the difference between what we are and what we could become.” Ben Herbster

“What you can become you are already.” Hebbel Friedrich

So often we limit ourselves. Yesterday at lunch we began discussing at what stage in teaching do teachers become stunted I use the word anally retentive and found a teacher asking what I meant. Someone quickly next to me said when you become a little box with no room for more ideas or thoughts when your vision is so narrow minded and limited you see as if looking through a toilet tissue tube. I thought maybe there was a class like limitations 101 or boxing up of ideas 102. But you know what it isn’t just teachers as students too limit themselves. Goals and parameters become fixed so tightly and confined that new creative opportunity becomes overshadowed by those limits and in an instant we are simply copying and cloning not creating. The potential for greatness is there it is the amount we need to see.

“It’s not what you’ve got; it’s what you use that makes a difference.” Zig Ziglar

With a name like that you had better be good. I had the fortunate opportunity to hear Zig speak and to read several of his books over the years. It was nearly twenty years ago I heard him speak for the first time. His entire talk was about unleashing potential about seeing beyond limitations rising up over the mountains. He was dynamic and up lifting as he spoke of selling your self as well as your product in his motivation program. The greatest idea in the world is only an idea till it is used.

“Most people live, whether physically, intellectually or morally, in a very restricted circle of their potential being. They make very small use of their possible consciousness and of their soul’s resources in general, much like a man who, out of his whole bodily organism, should get into a habit of using and moving only his little finger.” William James

I am reminded of an ad for Comcast cable of a man in a hospital room with a broken leg who is being wheeled out and realizes he will lose his cable and escapes from the nurse rolling in his wheel chair in front of a truck in which he in the next scene is lying in bed again watching cable with the doctor stating sir you have broken every bone in your body, except for one finger, which is his remote finger as he channel surfs. So many of us, teachers and students alike become restricted through habit and limit our creativity because we do not want change. Recently I received an email from a high school senior about questions I had asked, it was the first time she was challenged to think since another teacher in ninth grade. Thinking is what this life is all about not merely waking up punching a clock and returning home.
I had a conversation with a student yesterday and that student did not want to be in school. Where would you prefer to be I asked? At home sleeping was the response. What would you accomplish by sleeping I responded? I would be getting rested to get more sleep was the answer. Do we tend to limit and box up losing vital sight of tomorrow of something more than the air around us? Do we get in a habit of simply channel surfing using one finger one button and blipping through life? When I was a child we had one maybe two stations channel surfing was more simply put just the on and off switch. We now have more opportunity and less effort you had to get off the sofa in the old days to press the on and off button at least. Think for a minute open your eyes to what is around you try and see the gem inside the rough stone. Try not to be boxed and labeled and blinded by limitations and lessened expectations as you should not limit those around you. Please keep all in harms way in your heart and on your mind.