Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Reflections on Thanksgiving

My world looks like this:
Not this:
Clearly, I have much for which to be thankful.

As Thanksgiving arrives I cannot not be thankful. My world brings me joy. But I also believe that I have a responsibility to be aware of and to be part of the larger world that I live in. I cannot ignore the ugly and challenging parts of the world even though my particular part of the world is stable, happy, beautiful.

How can I be thankful yet know that many in the world suffer?

I believe I have twin responsibilities. I can appreciate my world. The beauty. The friends. The conveniences. The opportunities.

But I must also find ways to help. Volunteer. Give. Learn. Make a difference.

This Thanksgiving I am thankful for the complicated and tangled world that I find myself trying to navigate through, hoping that I can find ways to make the world better for those close to me and those whom I do not know.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Selfless acts

For me, it's hard to know why people do what they do. Some are motivated by fear. Some people are angry. Some people lash out because they feel threatened. Some people want to put others down so they can feel important. Some people want to save the world and they believe they are the only ones who can do it.

But then there are the people who are selfless - who act, it seems, purely for others.

These are the people that I really don't understand!

I was with some of those people for the past four days. Twenty-seven Novi Community School District staff plus the City of Novi Chief of Police served as chaperones for 324 Novi Middle School 8th graders on the annual trip to Washington DC. (I apologize in advance that I don't have pictures of all of the chaperones.)

As I sat on a bus surrounded by 8th-grade students I could look around and see three other adult chaperones. There were six other buses in exactly the same position - almost fifty students, four adult chaperones. Each chaperone was responsible for a group of twelve students.

Twelve 8th grade students. Twelve students who exhibit the highs and lows of being in 8th grade. These students were awkward at times - physically, emotionally, intellectually. These students were compassionate at times - to each other, to the chaperones, to our guide and driver. These students were curious at times - about the city, about each other, about history.

Twelve 8th grade students. Sometimes these students would not be quiet - especially at 3:00 AM when all you wanted to do was catch a few short minutes of sleep on the bus. Sometimes these students would express thankfulness with just the right words or the right action. Sometimes these students would be silly at the wrong moment and follow that up with a pitch-perfect sense of solemnity called for in that moment.

They are 8th graders!

And through it all, there was a group of chaperones who showed patience and concern and care. This group of chaperones held the reins tight when needed and let the students run when that was appropriate. This group of chaperones used moments to teach life lessons but never became "preachy."

These chaperones focus was on making sure that this group of 324 8th grade students had the time of their lives. The chaperones traveled all night with these 8th graders - down to Washington DC and back. This group of chaperones ate every meal for three full days with 8th graders. These chaperones woke up early so that they could be on time to wake up these 8th graders. This group of chaperones spent almost every waking hour for three straight days with 324 8th graders.


Because these chaperones care for these children who are not their own. These chaperones want the best for these students.

Why do people do what they do?

It is a mystery.

What I know is that I am grateful for adults in our school district and community who care for kids.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Bus 4: Full of Possibilities

Middle school was, for me, a long time ago. So long ago it was called junior high. I rode my bike to school with Les and Woods and Buddy and Tom.

What the future held we hadn't a clue. Our parents trusted that school would prepare us. Amazingly it did even though our present is so much different that we could have imagined.

Tonight I sit in the middle of 45 eighth grade students. We are on our way toWashington DC. 29 boys in front of me. 16 girls behind. I occupy the demilitarized zone so to speak. I am gatekeeper, peacemaker, guardian.

The parents of the 45 students on Bus 4 and the parents of the other 280 students in six other buses trust that our school will prepare these young children for their future. I believe that we will. Even though the future is hard to see clearly.

My parents and the parents of Les, Woods, Buddy, and Tom could not have foreseen the powerful forces that have shaped our world. Technology, social media, globalization, media, war, terrorism, diversity. The changes have been profound in ways large and small.

And tonight I both hope and plan that our schools will prepare the students on Bus 4 for the future that will transform into their present.

It's now past midnight. Surprisingly Bus 4 is quiet. In this relative calm I can sense the possibilities that lay ahead. Both for tomorrow and the years ahead.