Who are you being?
It matters what you do. It matters much more who you are being as you do it!
We wake up every morning and go to work. Or to whatever we do.
And, each day, we have a choice.
We can break rocks. Or we can help build a cathedral.
I cannot define for you the cathedral you can build or are building. Only you can do that.
But I can tell you that, unless you define that cathedral, you will eke out a mediocre existence punctuated with flashes of pleasure.
That is just the way it is.
It was an exclusive girl’s school and all three felt somewhat ill at ease when they arrived. Possibly it was this sense of being out of place that drew them together, or perhaps it was recognition that they shared exceptional intelligence or the fact that they were the only ones who were not already friends with someone else.
Whatever, they clustered together and became best friends.
After graduation they scattered to their respective countries, but they kept in touch. In those days, it was not common for women to leave the house and almost unheard of for them to work. Teaching was quasi-respectable and all three became kindergarten teachers.
Once in a great while they would somehow arrange to be in the same place at the same time and there was joy in these meetings and much reminiscing. There was also an undercurrent of sorrow and longing as they realized that life was not unfolding for any of them in the way they thought it would. Each coped with this in her own way.
Mary saw herself as the temporary custodian of the children of wealthy, uncaring parents and resented having to wipe noses or help them pull on galoshes or make sure they ate their lunch and snacks. The children sensed her dislike and resisted learning. So, they did poorly on tests and her principal spoke to her about lack of performance and this infuriated her even more.
She was bitter when she retired and went to her grave soon after. Not a single student or parent attended her funeral.
Joan saw herself as teaching reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic to young children and keeping order. Some of her kids were bright and some were dullards and she did what she could with each. She was a trifle sorry to retire but not altogether unhappy because she could no longer keep up with the unlimited energy of her young charges.
When she passed on, some of her one-time students, who lived close by, came to say goodbye and one of them delivered a fine eulogy. They then went about their business.
Early on Eleanor, like Mary, disliked what she felt she was being forced to do. Then she saw what her attitude was doing to her. She was resentful each day and snapped querulously at her own daughter and was withdrawn from her husband. And she was tired, always tired.
She determined to love each child who was entrusted to her. They were the clay, and she was the potter and each of her pots would be a work of art.
She saw they were enthralled by stories, and she told them tales of great heroes and how they overcame insurmountable odds and accomplished incredible feats of service. She encouraged them to dream great dreams and also to start laying foundations for the castles they built in the air.
Her eyes twinkled and her steps were light and when she reached mandatory retirement age the school board voted twice to give her an extension and then simply made her the honorary chairperson of some committee they created specially to give her a legitimate reason to keep coming back.
When she moved on persons came from all over the country to bid her adieu. The Prime Minister made a special visit because he was one of her former students and remembered that his first desire to enter public service arose when she challenged him to set right something that he was complaining about. There were newspaper editorials and there was mourning on blogs and a Twitter-facilitated minute of silence that thousands observed.
And many a mother wished her son would have a teacher like Eleanor.
Here is my question to you: When you go to work tomorrow, will you be like Mary? Or Joan? Or will you decide to do what it takes to be Eleanor?