A Sense of Optimism About Humanity

GenerativityThe local newspaper is delivered to me 4x each week. When I get it, I read it all. That includes the obituaries. The thing is, I am new to this town so it’s not like back home where every other day someone I know or am related to is dying or dead (or being born or getting married…)

So, this obituary was two columns wide and really long. Lots of words.  A photo of a very pretty lady. The words were very poetic and magical. I think they were her words. She talked about the family grocery, then a paragraph was devoted to her ‘beloved’ father, her steps that took her to the nunnery until that didn’t feel right anymore. Then her quest next led to graduate school… The next quarter of a century she conducted basic research in neuroscience and eventually retired as Professor Emerita. She started her own business, spoke, wrote, published books and so much more.

I did not know this woman but I wish I had.  She lived a colorful life and in the end requested the following: In lieu of flowers, and in recognition of the generativity which coursed through her life, the family requests that those wishing to honor her pay kindness forward to three other individuals.

Why I read this, why it touched a cord, why I kept it, the article, why I had to write about it? Even in death, this woman is giving to others by asking us to reach out and pay something forward as a gift to her.  If only a handful of her family or “groundswell of devoted friends” as the obituary read reached out and paid a kindness forward then her essence lives on. And if each person paid it forward THREE times then the world would be a bit easier for someone, for no real reason.

She’s gone, right? And yet she created a web of web of giving. That she can do that in her death makes me wonder what crusades and undertakings she accomplished prior to departing.

I know we all have our own stories and nobody really knows the story of the person next to them – but if there were some way to know more – count me in.

So, what is it I don’t know about you? What is the event, illness, struggle, joy, friendship or woe that got you to this very place in time? For many, it was the turning point in our lives. For others it might be a goal that was reached and lessons learned along the way. This beautiful, wonderful woman had TONS of stories –  and this is just one more. 

generativity (google dictionary) In Erik Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development, generativity is a struggle against stagnation that ascends during adulthood.
in the psychosocial sense refers to the concern for establishing and guiding the next generation and is said to stem from a sense of optimism about humanity.

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People will never forget how you made them feel

IN May, I hit the ground running and finally in early June I finished with my travels. Home in time to mow, weed and get prepared for summer. Home in time to breathe in the last of the lilac blooms, smell the wild roses and plant tomatoes.

On one of my trips I had the opportunity to sit in a first grade classroom in Carson City, NV during thpeople will never forgete last week of school.

On this very special day, the teacher awarded certificates to his students to highlight their unique qualities.  There was thoughtfulness and caring put into the awards. Some parents were present to watch and enjoy the ceremony. Some awards were over the heads of most of the students but they were told to go home and research the award if they wanted to learn more.

One girl received the Susan B Anthony award. Susan B. Anthony was very famous woman because she help free slaves and she help women get more power , she was told … “and you are like her because you are always helping and reaching out to be friends to others in this class.”

Thomas Edison award was handed out to a young boy who “hears instructions then does things his own way.” Another student received the Neil Degrasse Tyson award because she ‘asked questions that stumped the teacher’ and gave an insight into her thought process and intelligence. She was urged to research the award and learn more on her own.

A young girl, dressed with a huge pink flower in her hair and contemporary glasses was giving the Broadway Star award. “Broadway is a street in NYC where there are famous plays and theater. It seems to me that you like to be the center of attention, isn’t that right?” With a nod and a smile, her answer was a clear yes.

With each award, there was a lesson about famous people, what qualities the first grader had in common with that person and the uniqueness of the student. This teacher took some attributes that others would scorn and applauded them. The Presidential Award was handed to a student because of her leadership qualities. Some might say she was bossy in the classroom and yet, this ceremony focused on her best qualities and praised them. Another student received the Isaac Newton award because he was able to look at things and question instructions which helped everyone around him.

The Maya Angelou award was given to a student because of her writing style and her kindness. The Student of the Year award was handed to a student who joined the classroom later and still was able to join in and catch up. The John Grisham award, the Martin Luther King Jr award and on and on…

One student was told, “you are so smart” and then the teacher addressed the entire group of twenty and said – “You are all very smart students, you know that, don’t you?” then he turned back to the student in front of him and said, “you seem to understand what I am saying right away and can figure it out pretty quickly.” The piece of paper addressed their intelligence, kindness, curiosity, awareness, friendship, leadership, personality, wit and other personal attributes unique to each of them.

For one brief moment in time the spotlight was shining on them individually. It was the most precious thing I’ve ever seen and I am sure most students will hold on to the way they felt at that moment in time for decades to come.

I must tell you, this teacher is my son. I listened and sat in awe during this ceremony. I felt proud and happy for these kids who were each given a precious gift. I commented afterwards that “nobody ever told me I was smart” and this comment as shared like this …”Class, my mom just told me that nobody ever told her she was smart when she was in the first grade. But she’s one of the smartest people I know, just like you.”

It was an amazing experience in so many ways. i was honored to be there. And so very proud.

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. – Maya Angelou

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