I’ll admit it. But please, don’t tell my mother.
I wasn’t much of a student in high school. It’s not that I couldn’t do the work – or even that the work was very difficult. The reality was that I exerted the least amount of effort, and did the minimum amount of work, expecting only to get by and do only what was required of me.
Looking back now, my whole high school career could probably be summed up with a variation of a famous quip:
I did so much, with so little, for so long, that I learned how to do practically anything better than anyone else with nothing.
Of course, my parents gave me “the speech” on numerous occasions. Teachers cajoled and encouraged. They all lamented my wasted potential, but I regularly thought they were wasting their time reminding me of the facts.
Curiously, I find myself giving my son the same speech – even using some of the same words. Shockingly, my inspiring pep talks often seem to fall on deaf ears.
But there was one teacher with whom I connected and whose influence left a lasting impression.
My science teacher, Mr. Boomer knew how to motivate his students. His enthusiasm was contagious. Truth be told, he was an eccentric and the kids were drawn to him. He loved what he did – and it showed. He presented things in a fresh way and communicated more effectively than my parents and every other teacher – combined. He had that almost magical quality that every teacher wants to possess.
Or did he?
Although I didn’t know it at the time, Mr. Boomer was mentoring me. He took an interest in what I was doing and personalized the lessons to connect with my temperament.
I think I have mentioned in a previous post that I am a channel flicker. I love it, but it drives my wife crazy! I will watch three or four shows at a time, mostly things I have seen before so I don’t need to see every moment of the show. I can just flick back and forth between the best parts of each show and get the satisfaction of seeing all of them. Sometimes the shows I am watching mold together is some strange way to create a theme. This isn’t limited to movies, it can include just about anything; cartoons, concerts or even soccer on the Spanish channel. It can be a night of super-heroes or of war stories. Even if these stories are about different wars, they can all underscore the same theme of self-sacrifice or camaraderie. Some nights the things I watch can be so different that I can’t help but notice contrasting views, and wonder if I am the only one who sees them.
The other night I could not find anything I wanted to watch, so I clicked and clicked until I was so far up the list that I reached the music channels. On one channel there was a concert by a very popular band that is selling out stadiums around the world. The camera mostly focused on the lead singer/guitar player running from one side of the stage to the other, full of energy, screaming out the lyrics as the audience enthusiastically bounced up and down with energy that only people much younger than me have. I liked their music; they sounded good and the energy was infectious. I wished I could be in the audience enjoying what was surely a good show.
On the next channel was “Guitar Centers Sessions”. This is a small venue concert and interview. Most of the time it focuses on a band or individual who is a legend, or at least has been around for a long while. That night it was an interview with someone I had never heard of, but who is apparently is a legend to some. He sat in the chair talking about his life, including its many mistakes and missteps.
The contrast between these two channels was amazing to me. I flicked back and forth to watch them both, one highlighting the youth of today, full of energy, the other reflecting on life much later down the very same path. Both men tattooed head to toe, voices raspy, one from the years of cigarettes and hard living, the other from yelling out lyrics in giant stadiums.
Although he’s been dead for over forty years, I’ve been seeing and reading quite a bit about the Reverend Martin Luther King in the popular press lately. Much of this is attributable to the classification of February as “Black History” month -- but the majority is connected to America’s historic election of its first African-American president.
Many of the stories reference Dr. King’s soaring “I have a Dream” speech. If you’ve never heard or watched it, I would suggest you do. You can pull up the file on youtube.com or download it on iTunes. It is awe-inspiring not just for its words, but also given the time in which it was given.
It was August 28, 1963. America was in a time of great social upheaval. The Supreme Court had only recently order the desegregation of the public schools. In Washington, the Civil Rights Act was still a year away from passage. Racism was alive and well. Hundreds of thousands of citizens descended on the Mall in D.C. to make their case for racial equality. Prior to the Reverend King’s speech, musicians Bob Dylan and Joan Baez performed. Actor Charlton Heston spoke. It was a scene!
Admittedly, I wasn’t even born at the time of the address, but as I grew up, I was able to see some of the changes that King helped the country make. Because the Reverend King stated the problems and spoke of solutions, Americans were finally able to catch a vision for what needed to be done.
I think the disability community is in need of an “I have a dream” type moment.
A friend recently loaned me a copy of the HBO mini-series from a few years back entitled Band of Brothers.
Produced in 2001, it’s the story of the Easy Company of the US Army 101st Airborne division and their mission in WWII Europe from Operation Overlord through V-J Day.
It was deeply moving.
I watched in awe of these courageous men who from the beaches of Normandy to the high mountain hideout of Hitler, encountered the unparalleled evils of humanity.
They watched friends die or get brutally wounded. They saw atrocities that are beyond our comprehension and yet most came home and raised families and lived the rest of their lives in relative obscurity.
These were ordinary men making an extraordinary effort.
Yes, some fell, and some collapsed beneath the weight of the moment. But these men made history, and without them the world would be a very different place.
As I interact with other parents of special needs kids, I am reminded of this series and of the uncommon valor exhibited in everyday life.
Like those brave men of Normandy, you didn’t plan for every circumstance.
You didn’t ask it; you simply responded and reacted to the challenge of the hour.
If you’re like me, you often feel unqualified and void of the skills needed to get the job done.
Some days it feels as if you were just dropped on the beach and you’re fighting your way ashore, dodging the bullets that rain from the sky.