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Life Lessons Learned

July 8, 2009

My favorite teacher EVER was Miss Kitchen.  She had a mini library in her classroom and let me be a “librarian.”  She introduced me to great WWII-era literature, haikus (poems short enough I can write), and was just an inspiration.  Today I’ve been thinking about the lesson I remember most distinctly from her:

I was a Jazz fan.  (Surprising, I know.  But they were good.)  One night, they played the Bulls.  Or more specifically, Michael Jordan.  And, if I remember correctly (which isn’t likely, but that isn’t the point of this story), Michael Jordan won the game by shooting at half court & making it.

To a class of fourth graders, this was big news, and was discussed in class the next day.  “I HATE Michael Jordan” I proclaimed loud & proud.  How could he pull off such an upset?  So malicious.

Miss Kitchen stopped the class, and much to my embarrassment, addressed my comment.  I don’t remember her exact words.  (Mostly I remember my embarrassment.)  But she taught us, or maybe just me, that hate will only drag me down, that I should think the best of people, that I should rejoice at everyone’s success and sympathize with everyone’s struggles.   In essence, be merciful, be Christlike.

Well, I’m still learning.

Yesterday, my boss commented on the Steve McNair homicide.  It seemed pretty cut & dry to me: guy cheats, new girlfriend wants commitment, goes crazy & shoots him & herself.  My response was, “wow, that’s crazy.  What stupid people.”  And when asked to elaborate further, I responded, “it’s sad things ended that way, but what did they expect would happen?  Was there realistically a happy solution to the stupid situation they put themselves in?”

My lack of empathy worried my boss, who has since been trying to teach me principles I should already know: be merciful, be Christlike.

This morning, he emailed me two quotes to strengthen his argument. (An argument I already know is right, but clearly haven’t adopted into my life.)  The first comes from Hamlet:

My lord, I will use them according to their desert.

God’s bodykin, man, much better: use every
man after his desert, and who should ‘scape
whipping? Use them after your own honor
and dignity: the less they deserve, the more
merit is in your bounty
Take them in.

The second, from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass:

This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body…

I imagine learning and living these principles will be a life long pursuit.  But starting today, I hope I can become a little more merciful, a little more Christlike.

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 8, 2009 2:34 pm

    I would like my boss to quote Shakespeare and Whitman…or even know that either one of them existed!

    Great post, xox

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