We are each unique, which actually goes without saying because the words “each” and “unique” are not so unique from each other, both indicating one of a kind. An individual thing as distinct from a larger set of things. Therein also lies a suggestion of similarities between each unique one of us. “One” says we’re unique and “of a kind” says there are similarities between us. I am me, and in being so I am one particular kind of person. The “me” kind. For better or worse.
It seems to me that we’re each sort of different combinations of some of the same stuff and some different stuff wrapped up in the same kind of packages. The human being kind.
If that’s not complex enough, we also have senses and choices.
Senses give us information about stuff that exists around us. Senses also give us information about what among that stuff we like, dislike, appreciate, or repudiate.
Choices let us incorporate some stuff into our uniqueness and distance ourself from some of the other stuff.
I may not be right, but I’m not alone in believing that each of us also has the capacity to learn, and that with some determination we’re each capable of applying that learning to our lived experiences, thereby perpetuating the unique designs we each have on our own lives, knowingly and possibly subconsciously.
It’s easier said than done in some cases, and that makes it exhilarating. Frustrating, discouraging, infuriating, nerve-racking, woefully maddening, and exhilarating. The human journey is a dizzying ride.
Sometimes our learning takes hold and sometimes our intentions are waylaid by the organic ebbs and flows of the dizzying ride of a journey we’re each on. Sometimes we’re in control and sometimes we’re out of it.
The often-challenging news is that there seems to be no end to our struggles. The confusingly-exciting news it that no end is almost just like perpetual progress (if not exactly like it), and that’s cool because it keeps us each in motion.
As a parent and an educator I often hope my senses are keen enough to help me choose healthy, meaningful kinds of stuff to incorporate into my lived experiences, learn from, live by, and consequently model, so that the kids I serve have opportunities to sense that stuff too, and then make related choices that keep them living healthy, meaningful lives.
I understand that health and meaning look different for each of us. My hope is not for the kids I serve to make identical choices to mine, but rather to make choices on similar foundations when the see me making mine on the basis of healthy, meaningful stuff I learn.
I hope my modeling impacts the kids I serve in ways that influence them to take my intentional selection of stuff (along with the more innate combination of other stuff that makes me me) and incorporate it into their unique paradigms in new and evolved ways that influence positive progress for them, those around them, and even the world.
A tall order, I know. When I write it out like this it seems almost, if not actually, too lofty for me to reasonably entertain. After all, I’m just me. Oh well. That’s where all the hoping comes in, I guess.
Yesterday morning my family spent a few hours packing bags of food for people in need. We worked with an organization called Repair The World, who in league with an organization called The Noah Project and one called Gleaners. Each of these organizations is set on a foundation of social justice, which seems healthy and meaningful to me.
Repair The World focuses specifically on food justice and education justice. Essentially making and acting on the argument that all people, regardless of our inherent and/or manufactured differences, have the right to good, healthy food and meaningful, enriching education.
Our kids are relatively young right now. They each seemed to understand that every sandwich made and every snack bag packed was going to eventually reach the hands of a person, maybe even another kid, who was hungry and didn’t have another way to get food like this. There are no doubt many complexities about poverty and hunger that our kids don’t understand, but they expressed joy at knowing they were helping people in need.
We drove separately because I had some work to do downtown after they left for home. Lorelei (my wife) called my from the car shortly after we went our separate ways. She was thrilled to report that as the navigation system announced a right turn on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard our youngest young one shouted from the back, “Mommy, Mommy…King Jr.!”
She was so proud that the big guy was aware and excited to share his awareness of Dr. King. I’m proud to. A simple thing to be proud of. A piece of a much larger puzzle. A start at the start of a life journey.
Who knows how deep the awareness runs. It’s hard to say what connections he makes from himself to Dr. King, and to the potential of a non-violent, compassionate, character-laden, generous, mindful life peppered with efforts at increasing social justice.
Might our expressed pride and excitement alone be a driver of some Dr. King modeling seeping in to him, mixing with the rest of his unique stuff and possibly enhancing the way forward?
How about the combination of packing a few sandwiches and snack bags for kids in need in combination with the mention of Dr. King’s work around social justice?
How do we make sure that an exclamation of, “King Jr.!” at the mention of Dr. King’s name translates in to some actionable, healthy, meaningful, rich learning and growth for our youngest kid and his siblings? Can we? Maybe we can’t officially make sure of anything. Maybe that’s where trying and progress come in.
Maybe we simply keep doing the best we can and continue to hope, and push for better around each corner.
I imagine Dr. King might have counseled us that every little piece of the compassion puzzle is critical and meaningful.
I suspect he might have not asked us to strive for his exact likeness but rather for some of his likenesses that connect us and connect to us.
My understanding is that Dr. King understood potential as reflective progress peppered with hope, with grit, and with faith. I gather he hoped we might each become the truest versions of our unique selves on a foundation of healthy, meaningful choices in and among the many challenges he knew we would each face. I believe he had faith in each of us to get it done, too…to each eventually fulfill our unique potential with compassion, kindness, and justice in mind.
I take joy a great deal of joy in seeing each of my kids’ character unfold.
When a “King Jr. moment” comes along, that joy permeates my hope and I viscerally feel that, while challenging, complex, and often times confusing and worrisome, this world is holistically headed in the right direction. Consistently two steps forward and one step back as it goes, a delicate and frustrating dance in many ways and much of the time, but in the right direction nonetheless.
If the best I can do is keep trying I intend to. If the most I can offer is the sensing of light around me and the choice to share my sense of it with others, that might have to be enough. Maybe it actually is. When I fail to do so I try to dust myself off and give it another go. If nothing else, maybe I can count those try’s and the connect actions as my own “King Jr. moments” and possibly, in some small way, serve as a conduit from Dr. King to the kids I serve.
We can’t each be everything, but we can each be something, and if we can learn from legends like Dr. King, and in turn from one another, we can each be proud of the something we each are and the something we are each progressively becoming.
Unique and similar, we are truly each something great when we stay strong in choosing to be something we understand as something good.
In it together for the kids.
Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.