Saturday, December 17, 2011

Each One Teach One

Yesterday, I experienced heaven on earth.

Yeah, I know even for me that’s a little over the top. But that’s what it was. I believe that we can see God’s will be done on earth just as it is in heaven, but we must be co-creators in this miracle. We must extend the hand of love to others and we must be able to receive that gift ourselves; therein is the beauty and balance of life.

Yesterday, I had a meeting with a young writer, Curtis Coleman; remember the name, you will hear of him again. He is brilliant, talented and has an amazing story to tell. We had planned to meet at noon but he got a little lost along the way. Like me, my house is not hard to get to but it’s not that easy to find (told you I was deep.) Anyway, he called a few times for directions and to let me know that he was not too far away. When he arrived, I learned that his wife and three of his four children had come along with him. The oldest of the children was six. They were full of life and happy to see a big front yard. They ran up the steps and into the house immediately finding the glass tic-tac-toe game that stays out on an ottoman in the family room. One piece is missing from the game. It was broken by another young visitor, so I went and found a rubber band that was shaped like an “O” so they could play the game.

My manager Jeanine and I had planned to take the writer to a wonderful Cuban restaurant in downtown Savannah (go ahead, you want to say it, “Havana in Savannah, but it’s called Rancho Allegre.)  but we decided on a neighborhood Mexican restaurant instead. The neighborhood restaurant had a children’s menu and an outdoor patio where the kids could play if they got bored. Before going, I rummaged around in the hall closet to find toys for the kids. Throughout the year, I purchase toys that are on sale to have for moments like this and for kids in other countries. The children were delighted with their new toys so when we got to the restaurant they did what kids do; they ignored the adults and played. We chatted about Curtis’ book and became so engrossed that we didn’t notice that other children had come to the table to play too. Curtis’ wife Tonya, was wonderfully patient and loving with all of the kids, but was also tuned into her husband’s work and interjecting at all the right places. Curtis told us about his struggles with the balance of writing and being able to support his family. In addition to being an amazing writer, he was also a track star having won the 100 meter race in the Penn Relays several years ago. He talked about making the choice between providing for his family or chasing his dream. He came to understand his real mission was to be a great father. By telling stories to his children he learned his real passion for writing.

When You Walk With Purpose You Collide With Destiny.

We talked some more; bouncing ideas for his story off of each other’s heads and I could see the bright and hopeful future of this young family and at the same time, I could see my own past. I remembered taking my kids to dinner but only going to places that had kiddie meals for them and was accessible for my mom. I flashed back to telling them a story while we waited for the food to be served and I recalled the fact that I didn’t write until I had gotten my kids.

After lunch we came back to my house and walked out on the dock in the back yard. I marveled at the feeling of a tiny hand in mine as I answered questions about why the tall marsh grass was bent over, how the big bird was standing on the water and what was that in his mouth. I did the best I could with facts then abandoned them and made up a story as I had with my own children so many years ago.

When they left, I suddenly felt tired and then I remembered how much energy young children required. I answered a few emails and returned some calls, but I felt like the light had been turned out. I read some and decided to go to bed. Then, as if truly by magic, I got a call from my high school English teacher, Karen Denton Johnson. Karen was that teacher who found my writer’s voice and was extremely instrumental in helping me get into college. Last night she and her husband Joe were hosting a dinner party with friends. One of the guests didn’t believe there was a university called Cottey College and so, at 9 at night, they decided to call me because I had been there to lecture. I was somewhat groggy and am not too bright after 7, but I explained that Cottey did in fact exist and that it was one of the best kept great school secrets in the country. I told them that Cottey is an all-women’s two year college that they hadn’t heard of it because the brilliant young women leaders who go there get their undergraduate degree from someplace else, but they all go on to be amazing women leaders.

Then it hit me, “Hey, “I asked somewhat stunned, “What are you old people doing up laughing at a dinner party, calling me who you taught, and I’m in bed asleep?” They laughed at me and said good night. I sat up and realized that I was standing in the middle of my life able to see the past and the future all at the same time; heaven on earth.

Life is beautiful, wonderful and round.

·         Take the time to share and teach what you know to someone

·         Allow others to do the same for you

·         Stand in the middle of your life and see the connections.

When you leave a room, leave a legacy.

Be wonderful, be well, teach what you know

Bertice Berry, PhD

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