I’ve been sitting with my hundred-four-year-old great aunt a lot lately. You won’t be surprised to find out that she’s slowed considerably. In fact, she’s slowed to the point of almost complete immobility and exceedingly stilted communication. She lifts her hands and shrugs her shoulders every now and again. She utters a few words here and there but she’s holistically reliant on caregivers to assist her with even the most basic of tasks. She now needs substantial help doing things that I don’t’ give any thought to as I do them for myself, like sip water or shift in bed.
Nevertheless she maintains a peaceful spirit. She gives no indication of disappointment or distress. In fact, the most frequent statement she makes when I’m with her now a days is, “I’m ok.” She whispers it with a smile that starts at her mouth and extends deep into her eyes. She’s never been the type to have others burdened by worry over her. She has an incredibly strong constitution and an amazingly self-reliant spirit.
She’s a natural beauty. Always has been. I’ve always loved to be around her. She was vibrant. She was pretty. She had an effortless and organic sense of humor that seemed as much a part of her as her fingers or toes. It simply was. She was silly and sophisticated simultaneously. She drew people to her. She could share a secret without using words…a look was enough.
When I’m with her now I spend some time telling stories about my kids and showing pictures to match. However, most of the time we simply look at each other and smile; still lots of secrets to share. It’s sad and frustrating, but it’s also wonderful and awe inspiring. I can’t remember what’s kept me so busy over the past few years that I haven’t shared much time with this remarkable woman until now, now when I understand that our time together is growing extremely short. Turns out I wish I would have spent more. I think the return would have been tremendous. Time with those who inspire you is well spent. Time with those you love is worthwhile.
As an educator and a community leader I can’t let the messages of this experience be lost. Isn’t it true that the time we spend with one another is the most meaningful time? While there’s no shortage of tasks to be done in any given school day, the value of those tasks seem exponentially diminished when we attempt to complete them in isolation. Making and maintaining genuine connections with those we serve maximizes our capacity for fostering positive progress in students, parents, and fellow educators alike. It brings out the best in us too.
As a building principal I must find ways not only to get things done but to get them done in collaboration with others. With a continued focus on partnerships I’m deeply committed to keeping in mind that time is fleeting, that sharing time makes it better, and that I simply can’t go back to strengthen relationships I may have neglected along the way. The space between the blink of an eye has proven that it can get away from me pretty darn fast when I’ve not been intentional about making it matter.
I will undoubtedly continue to stumble along the way but I will use this time with my great aunt as a springboard for further reflection on leadership and learning, and to consider enhanced efforts at a slow and steady life in an unequivocally fast past world.
Live. Learn. Lead.
Dream Big. Work Hard. Be Well.