Just Sifting – Mercy
You must know a person who is naturally endowed in a particular area – breathing a particular skill, don’t you? My father is a former actuary, and he is that way; watching him manipulate numbers with easeful mastery is a glimpse of giftedness. My elder son – once a burgeoning hockey player – was grace on skates – a pleasure to watch in effortless motion. Or perhaps the jazz musician lost in improvisation – just being, or the cook in a bubbling, steamy kitchen, the bartender’s easy hospitality behind the bar, or the athlete’s physical prowess out on the field – all are glimpses of humanity at its best.
Conversely, imagine one thing that you find challenging. Something in which you recognize a lack of common aptitude, despite your best efforts. Perhaps it is gardening, or drawing, or mechanics, or home maintenance, or social skills, or technology.
For me, that challenge was sports. A sickly youngster, I was burdened with childhood illness including chronic asthma. Gym class was always a trial for me; I was the last one to cross the finish line, the last one standing when kickball teams were picked. I did my best to stay under the radar and at the back of the line, yet the feeling of ineptitude and dread accompanied me through much of my physical education career.
Thus, I imagine my worst nightmare would be a school in which every class were a gym class: first period – gymnastics, second period – dodge ball, third period – track and field, fourth period – field hockey. You get the picture.
As a special educator, I can’t help but think that this might be what school is like for my special needs students. Doing what is most challenging – publicly – five days a week, all day. For this reason, I’ll do well to pause and remember; these are the artists, singers, athletes, comedians, chefs, musicians, plumbers, and thinkers of the future. They – like all of us – possess a multitude of talents that inform a global intellect, not just a lop-sided aptitude – or not – restricted exclusively to language arts and math.
As a teacher and humanitarian – let me remember to teach the child and not the subject. Let me be kind, let me be compassionate, let me be merciful. Let me be a human of the highest order, inviting others to see what is best about themselves for a lifetime of purpose.