When I was a child, long before every house had A/C, adults sat on their porches and visited with neighbors. If a neighborhood child did something good, everyone heard about it and congratulated them. I don’t remember ever feeling ‘less than’ because we lived across the street from the high school quarterback who actually had one date with Brook Shields. (In our small town USA these things were big deals.) Instead I remember feeling proud to be somehow associated with people who did such things.
Fast forward to the world of home schooling. When my children were young, home schooling was still somewhat new. Every home school accomplishment was one more victory for our team. Life wasn’t a competition, but a group effort to ensure every child was supported and educated. In our case this occurred by supporting the parents, sharing ideas, new curriculum finds and field trip opportunities.
Today, while my younger children are finishing school life seems different. My announcements that my child received a scholarship are met with looks that say, ‘Well aren’t you so great,’ rather than ‘How’d you do that?’ And these looks are from the younger generation, who do not yet have a child to compete with mine- and who knows what theirs will do? (Though, from the responses I get, Mom is not too confident…) And maybe that’s the problem, our young moms are not so confident. Somehow we seem to have created a culture where everyone sucks is the motto, and striving to be exceptional, or even the best you can be, is discouraged. How did this happen? I don’t know, but we better work to get over it. Shared failure does not seem to be such a fun place to be. Let’s take back our ability to be happy for those who achieve. Let’s look to those who have done well before us, not as people who have attained the unattainable, but as those who can tell us how. Let’s rejoice in our uniqueness and add to the talent pool where we may, not caring what others will think when we do things just a little different than they did, because that is how you add value. Let’s not cringe when we do well, hoping no one will notice, but glory in the fact that we can make a difference, and we can be someone special to somebody.
My father talks of the high school janitors he used to have. Even when I was young, they were respected. The children loved them, and they looked out for us. When my father brought lobster home from a trip, one had to go to the man in the overalls, because for some reason, he was the one we most wanted to bless. Why was he ‘someone.’ Someone so important we’d put lobster on ice and save it for him? Because he cared. Because he was someone who came to work happy to be there, doing the extras to make our school special. Because we knew he loved us. How did we know he loved us? From his interest in our lives, his pleasure in our accomplishments and his disappointment when we did not behave. (Who do you think was in the hallway when you were sent out of class?) And we came home and bragged about him. I do not remember what we said, but it was enough that my parents would sacrifice part of our precious feast to give him something he had told one of their children he had never had before.
So instead of cowards, irritated that someone is doing something we are not, let us be the type of people whom others can brag on. The person who is so kind that everyone knows who they are and loves them. The one who, when others achieve, is in their corner cheering them on. This is the attitude that encourages greatness, and produces people of ability. This is the attitude that makes a community. This is the attitude that makes a janitor the greatest person in the building. And it produces a generation that learns.