SEVENTY-TWO

WE ONLY SEE THE SURFACE.  We cannot see all the hidden things; the things that lie beneath the surface.  One of my really good friends growing up was shy - really shy.  I was so surprised to learn that some people, who only saw her from a distance, thought she was unapproachable.  

Another good childhood friend of mine was always smiling and unbelievably beautiful.  People talked about her too -- how she must "have it so easy" and how it was obvious why she was always so happy -- she was gorgeous.  They never knew that she struggled with anxiety and depression.

I think about this a lot; the space between what is seen and unseen.  I think about when I'm looking at the faces of my students who are most often smiling.  Could you look through the classroom and determine who was homeless or in foster care?  Could you see the ones brokenhearted or struggling?  They smile up at me, cheerful to tackle the projects in front of them and only in some instances do they show outward signs of the wounds they bare.

I think about it, too.  The way I appear to those around me; confident, cheerful and easy-going.  They don't know I'm a worrier or that I sometimes struggle with insomnia.  They don't know that I've had to learn to develop a habit of positive self-talk.  They don't know that the word that most often comes to mind just before I speak in public is: loser.

My students and I have been talking about empathy lately.  We have been watching a video put together by my great friends at Class Dojo.  Right now, we are in the middle of little Mojo (a sweet monster) learning to develop empathy for his fellow monsters.  It is no small thing to arm the next generation, and yourself with a compassion heart that can imagine how someone else feels.  It is essential to our survival as humans.  Our level of kindness only ever matches how we treat the stranger, the helpless, and the "weak".  We must stretch out our hands to lift one another up.

Of course, one of the biggest problems is that it is very difficult to identify the stranger, the helpless and the weak.  They are often hiding in plain sight -- they are our friends, our co-workers, our leaders, and our bosses.  Like my students, who put on a uniform each morning (thus making it harder to see who is poor and who is not), they plaster a smile on their faces, and respond with a "Oh, I had a great weekend."   

Humans are complicated.  They are so much more than can be seen in a quick glance, or even in a lifetime of knowing.  Humans tuck away secrets.  They will sometimes tell you the exact opposite of what they feel. 

If I were to see myself, now or in the past, would I be able to recognize any of the things that I know to be true of myself?  If I bumped into 11th grade me, would it be obvious that I spent that year struggling with panic attacks? There are so many things we cover up and deny.  Is it any wonder our students, our children, and even our co-workers and cautious when we ask, "How are you doing?"

Don't get me wrong, I am, and always have been, a generally happy person. I expect good things to happen.  That doesn't mean I have never struggled or never worry.  I have fought my way through difficult days, and stressful times like anyone else.  

It is so easy to look at the people around us and summarize them after the briefest of glances.  It is so easy to think we know everything about the people around us.  It is so easy to forget what we understand to be true of ourselves, also applies to all the other humans around us; I am not exactly what you see.  I am much more.  

So, are you.  And I wanted to tell you something.  You are doing good.  Everyday you rise and try your best, and sometimes it goes great and sometimes it doesn't.  Sometimes you make mistakes, and sometimes you struggle -- but even in those times  you are doing good.  Keep going.  Keep rising.  

As I rise each day, I pray that my own heart will grow with empathy and compassion for all those around me for we are in this together.  

--Jen

Well, it happened.  Last night, due to "site maintanence" there was a break in my DAILY 500 chain. If you were bummed that I didn't write, I am deeply flattered, and thanks for reading everyday.  It didn't feel a little strange not to have 500 words to push out into the universe, but it looks like we all survived.  I imagine sometime I will have a day with nothing to say, but until then I will trudge along and try to keep my Daily 500, a daily thing