Tuesday, May 28, 2013

WITH FRAGILE MIND AND STRONG SPIRIT…



This week I have had two separate incidents that have reminded me of the fragility and the gift of the mind.  And the importance of gratitude.

I celebrated the passing of a friend this week.  At sixty years old, Mary passed away in the late stages of what was an early onset of dementia.  Her daughter eulogized her, stating that before the disease and throughout the disease her mother never lost touch with the essence of goodness that was innately a part of Mary’s personality.  She told lovely stories of Mary’s love for her husband and children, her giving spirit.  She painted a picture of her mother who, even at the height of her disease, continued to express care for her family, owning a disposition that to the end always showed love to those who most cared for her.  Her daughter spoke of Mary’s instinct toward gratitude and how her gracious spirit, until the end, filled those around her.

I also had a conversation with someone I care about who is currently in a nursing home.  Steve has advanced Parkinson’s  disease and with the mixing of medicines and a personality that leans toward fear, has frequent episodes of paranoia.    Our conversation was a vehicle to quell his fear by my naming for him the good in his life and helping him remember.  Together we listed all for which he was grateful.  We remembered his friends, his children and his family, memories of a once full life, his aides who care for him, an evening meal, a book he likes, his paintings, and the list went on….  As he acknowledged these places of gratitude, his fear subsided, replaced momentarily by peace and love.   Steve allowedf those around him to lead him to a place of gratitude and fear slipped away.

These two and separate incidents have made me wonder how, in the midst of advanced chronic illness, people respond so differently to their world.   Both have fragile and changing minds.  Both have dispositions that create a space that responds to the world in a very different way.  Both have essences that are rooted in love and loved ones.  Mary was rooted in her goodness and responded in love, bringing others with her till the end.  Steve was rooted in his fear and through the love of others can be led to a place of love.  Both were brought to this place by gratitude.  In Mary, her access to graciousness allowed her to exude her goodness and share her connection to gratitude till the end.  In Steve, his fear can block his access to gratitude and by allowing others who care for him to guide him he can access and share this place of peace.   Different and not really so very different, after all.   

What, you might ask, does this have to do with a writing blog…an educator blog?  As an educator, I believe that as I interact with children and adults (I work with both), I am interacting with the whole of the other.  As I set up a community of learners, whether that community is a school, a classroom community, a writing community or a one day workshop, I want to set up a space where all in the community can learn and grow.  I don’t just want to impart knowledge, although that is an important aspect of what I do—and I relish that part of my work.   I want to create community where learning occurs and the whole of the people in the community thrive.  Recognition and celebration of difference supports this community.  The Mary’s of a community bring their gift to the community.  And the Steve’s do as well.  And somehow in the midst of this make-up of people brought together, gratitude is a foundation.  For some in the community gratitude comes easily.  For others, with guidance and support, gratitude becomes realized.  I wonder, as a leader and educator, how I can create a learning climate for others, through writing, through conversation, through acts of kindness, through example, where gratitude is known and each in the community grows because of it.

Today I am grateful for Mary and for Steve—both who showed me this week the importance of gratitude.  Who showed me the fragility of one’s mind and the ability of one’s spirit.  Who showed me the importance of others on a journey that leads to love and is fortified by gratitude. 

What and who are you grateful for today?

22 comments:

  1. There are several parts of your reflection that I like, Deborah, but this line speaks such importance to me as a teacher: "Recognition and celebration of difference supports this community." Until we begin to treat our classes as students with individual stories and needs, it will be difficult for all to feel successful and included. Thanks for all you wrote!

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    1. Thanks, Linda, for your comments. Finding a place in our classrooms to celebrate the unique within each of us is so important.

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  2. Deb, beautiful words as always. Thank you for your sharing, for your connecting of leadership and teaching, and for your awareness of the interplays over which we all have control, both the giver and the receiver.

    For me, today, I am grateful for the chance to unplug this weekend from a very intense time, I am grateful for my wife being able to join me as I travel for work, and I am grateful for the chance to do what I do for a living effectively and with an opportunity to have notable impact.

    Love, Dave

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    1. Thanks, Dave, for your kind words. I am glad that you are finding so many places to celebrate gratitude. Don't we all need to unplug! Glad you found your opportunity!

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  3. Thank you for sharing the contrasting states of love and fear, which I think everyone experiences -- sometimes swinging from pole to pole.

    Your blog seems to be authentic and reads like a journal of your thinking and learning. I'm not sure why you don't find it thematic enough, compared to others? Perhaps you'd like a different layout with some photos to tie things together visually?

    Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Thank you for your comments. I am really thinking out this "blooging" thing. Thematic is not really where my issue lies. I love what I write on my blog. The topics are all important to me. The topics sometimes seem to be broader than writing and writers' workshop. Or education and classrooms--but they are important for writing and writers' workshop and for education and classrooms. I guess I am looking for affirmation that--yes, they do fit and the thinking on these matters is important.

      I am still learning about blogs. I agree that photos and layout are important. Would like to learn more about this:)

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  4. I see and feel how both love and fear are common themes in life...you compare and contrast both with the idea of gratitude woven throughout the blankets of both friends' lives which have both touched you-helping you grow into a different person. Thanks for this post and for the reminder to be thankful in all we do!

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  5. While I too, at times, wonder if the connections between my "personal life" and my "professional life" are strong enough to all be part of my "blog" I am keeping them all together because they really all impact the people we are and are becoming. It's through reflection about sometimes sad, sometimes happy, and always real aspects of life that we are best able to read, write, and guide others on the journey. I've been experimenting with a format on Live Journal that would allow for two columns of posts - but so far I haven't gone there as it just does not seem "right" to separate our lives into compartments!

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    1. I am interested in what you are doing with Life Journal. Thank you for your comment.

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  6. "..these places of gratitude..." You are so wise, Deb. Gratitude heals and helps us see and learn. I, too, had a brush-up reminder of the importance of gratitude this weekend, and your post hits it home for me. Thank you again.

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    1. Thanks, Amy. I am looking forward to seeing you (several times) next weekend.

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  7. Your reflection about your friends is beautiful, as is the connection to your professional life. I loved the line, "Recognition and celebration of difference supports this community." So true in our lives...we need to recognize and celebrate the differences of those in our lives in order to really appreciate them.

    I've been thinking a lot about gratitude lately too, and seeking out time and space for reflection on what I'm grateful for. Thank you for sharing this post. It gave me lots to think about.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Julie. How do you seek out time and space of that for which you are grateful? I am always interested in how people create spaces of gratitude.

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  8. I needed this read early in the morning, before I start the day. I wrote today about my grandmother and how her memory is fading. Your reflection here is like a companion for it. I feel such gratitude for every moment I've had with her. Our time here is so short.

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    1. I am sorry that your grandmother's memory is fading. I look forward to reading your post.

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  9. This is a beautiful post. I love the connection you made between Mary and Steve, when on the surface, they do seem so different.
    You make me think about the importance of gratitude. I am thankful for the people in my life. Do they know it? Do I show them? You really gave me something to think about. Thank you.

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    1. I agree that on the surface Mary's story and Steve's look different. And in the end, they are very similar.

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  10. I feel so fortunate that you shared this post with us. As educators, we knit together the sum of our experiences for our children - what we know about life, about people, informs the communities we create in our classrooms. Your wise reflections made me pause to consider gratitude, grace and compassionin a wonderful way today.

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    1. Thank you, Tara for your very kind words.

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  11. So much of life is about knowing and being known. Thank you for sharing about your friends. I was so touched that you were able to bring Steve to a place where he wasn't as fearful. I work in a Care Center at our church. I hope that I will be that person that can do the same. xo

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  12. I am grateful for you, Deb, and for the beautiful way you express your authentic life experiences. Thank you for sharing and inspiring!

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