Once upon a time there was a boy named Scott. He went to St. Mary’s Catholic Elementary School and Sister Camilla was his teacher. Every Sunday at mass, Sister Camilla would hook arms with Scott’s grandmother. “Your grandson is my favorite pupil!” she’d say, whispering as if it were a secret. “I think he’s going to be a priest one day.”
It was an ordinary day in Sister Camilla’s fourth grade class, and Scott sat calmly with his fourth grade classmates, all of them thinking fourth grade thoughts.
As he was thinking, Sister Camilla got up from her desk and rang a little brass bell signaling it was time for a very important announcement.
Sister Camilla smiled her sweet smile, blue eyes sparking through her golden spectacles. “Children,” she said, “DESK CHECK!”
The children each had an old-fashioned desk with a lift-up lid. Scott’s desk was crammed full of things that he was absolutely certain he would need someday.
The desk check was new to Scott but he didn’t worry. He was after all, Sister Camilla’s favorite, and he might be a priest one day!
Scott watched and waited as Sister Camilla approached each child’s desk and lifted the lid. She took a look, prodded and poked, and moved on.
Finally it was Scott’s turn. Sister Camilla lifted the lid of Scott’s desk, and looked and prodded and poked. Suddenly she whipped around and glared down at Scott. Her eyes bulged, her eyebrows arched, and her lips curled in the most awful way.
Scott, still hoping for the best, smiled up at Sister Camilla.
“Scott, stand up and step aside! NOW!”
Scott watched aghast as Sister Camilla squatted down in her sensible shoes, grabbed the corner of his open desk, and with every bit of her 5’1” frame dumped the entire contents onto the classroom floor.
Just then, Scott threw up a little.
Papers, books, baseball cards, pencils, crayons and marbles flew across the room. Scott looked down with tears streaming and saw that even Jesus had averted his eyes in shame as he lay dying on the floor—still attached to Scott’s glow-in-the-dark rosary.
Kids roared with laughter while Scott stood frozen in horror.
Scott would never forget the contempt on Sister Camilla’s face as she turned heel, her habit swirling, and screamed, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness! Let that be a lesson!”
My name is Scott and I am a hoarder. Not the crazy kind with piles of newspapers dating back three decades, but I like to save stuff. As a minister and a book lover, anything that contains the written word is especially important. My basement is crammed with boxes of old papers, pamphlets and magazines that I am absolutely certain I will need someday.
I have a particular affinity for inspirational passages or words of wisdom. I would guess that most of what I keep is what I think is “Truth” in some variation. I am never surprised when I find something enlightening, and the beauty of Truth is that (a) you feel it when you hear it; and (b) it cannot be qualified.
For instance, I don’t think the wisdom of the Dalai Lama is any more valuable than that of the Dolly Parton. Truth is Truth, and we’re all sent to this life experience to express our own individualized piece of the Divine—your mission, should you choose to accept it.
I believe we are all teachers—that each of us has unique and meaningful things to share. When those words are rooted in the heart, they will necessarily effect the rise of a new, conscious evolution in humankind. In order for that idea to be glorified, however, we have to accept the notion that we’re students as well as teachers.
It seems like everywhere we go, we’re inundated with opinions, viewpoints, and biased information. My “sorting hat” is my own intuition—I am skeptical of words from anyone or anything unwilling to be taught something different.
I am a self-proclaimed Philomath, a “lover or learning,” and I enjoy synthesizing new ideas into my own way of thinking and being. It’s not necessary that we believe everyone, but our willingness to integrate new ideas opens the door to a life rich with discovery.
On the other hand, if we are un-teachable we are unreachable. Familiarity breeds contempt. Immersing ourselves in any one group that shares the same limiting beliefs is a recipe for unreasonable and unmitigated judgment.
Those who crouch in an insular existence have made up their minds, and I think many who have made up their minds have lost their minds in the process.
"We the willing, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much, with so little, for so long, we are now qualified to do anything, with nothing."—Konstantin Josef Jireček, Dec 13, 1881
The word “ignorance” is derivative of “ignore” and the irony of the ignorant is their consistent need to convince the rest of us that they are right and we are wrong—their need to be very, very “right” is a sure sign that something is very, very wrong.
The capacity to expand consciousness and increase awareness is one of life’s greatest gifts. Through exposure to new and different people, places, things and ideas we catapult ourselves into a greater sense of self. When we complement those experiences with honor and compassion we feel harmony and one-ness with all that is. The Truth is synergistic, organic and always expanding to the ineffable.
I realize this is blue-sky thinking but I have also realized that resisting ideas that I don’t like is not my path to peace. I have learned to breathe before I speak and accept that the world is rife with “knee-jerks” who have a punch-list of scapegoats for any occasion: gay marriage, the Second Amendment, Obama, Wall Street, Islam, and so on. I marvel at the ingenuity, the creativity, and the sheer breadth of knowledge—oh the places they will go!
I do not, in any way, want to make light of issues that both demand our attention and beg for collaborative solutions. It is my daily prayer that we may find common ground, not battleground, with those we may hold in contention.
Mother Theresa said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people then just feed one.”
If in our lifetime we each mend a single fence, together we will change the world. There is room for all of us to be gods of big thoughts and sowers of small victories.
In order to grow we must feed our bodies, nurture our minds, and tend to our souls.
We must remain teachable, reachable, and empathetic.
We must discern away that which dispirits us, and do it with firm yet compassionate redirection.
We must decide for ourselves, which conversations are worth having, and which are not.
We must stand in peace, not in judgment.
I may be a hoarder, but I know there is no room for the ideas of knee-jerks in my basement. I am certain I won’t need them someday.
But I still believe they’re my teachers, and I know that I’ll learn from them.
I also believe, deep down, that they’ve been sent here to teach me a lesson.
Just like Sister Camilla.