Teach Your Children Well

Listen to the mustn’ts, child,
Listen to the don’ts
Listen to the shouldn’ts,
The impossibles, the won’ts
Listen to the never haves
Then listen close to me –
Anything can happen, child,
Anything can be.

Shel Silverstein

         I’ve been thinking about teachers and coaches a lot lately, alongside our kids who are riddled every day, it seems, with fear and lack of hope. So many suicides. Earlier today, my son told me about a classmate. “Oh, that one was an OD, but on purpose,” he said. Last “one” jumped off a third story. Then, this evening, my son texted to let me know he was “safe in the fraternity house” and not to worry if I got a call from the school: suspected bomb in the library, full scale emergency measures. Students were alerted to “stay as far away from the library as possible.” (Speaking my nineteen-year-old’s language…)

         What is the new norm for these kids? Why such hopelessness in our young people? We could go on for hours about contributing factors. (Is suicide done in anger? I don’t think so. Anger is passionate. Suicide is hopeless.) I think often of the notion that the opposite of love is not hate but indifference. Indifference, depression, lack of passion, and apathy seem to be endemic in our youth.

        Why this lack of hope and faith? Can we cultivate it? If so, how? I believe it starts with ourselves before we can pass along to young people. Perhaps by teaching and modeling faith, which starts with being mindful, and then cultivating deeper spirituality, connecting to something or someOne bigger than yourself. As AA puts it, believing in a power bigger than ourselves can restore us to sanity.

         Going there is kind of scary for a twenty-year-old. (Heck, it’s scary at any age.) Not something we put on our bucket lists for the heck of it. It’s creepy in the deep end, and what if we fall off? If we’ve gone “there,” it’s probably only because our small little selves felt desperate. (Who wants to open that big ole door and enter the unknown unless they’re totally out of options?)

“But … just when the caterpillar thought her life was over, she became a butterfly”       ~ Author Unknown

         We need guides: to have them and to be them. Broken down, the Sanskrit word “Guru” is “gu,” meaning dark, and “ru,” derived from the word that means light. In other words, a guru is someone that takes us from the darkness to the light. A teacher, coach, spiritual mentor is “good” when they can relate, listen, and encourage us to unlock the door, take the leap, and go in. 

         We all have experience with someone who has encouraged or cultivated a passion in us or in someone we love. Ditto, the experience of observing someone in leadership squelching a curiosity, a talent, or an enthusiasm. God bless those that teach, encourage, coach, and mentor well. It’s a gift (that not everyone in teaching and coaching positions has).

         On the one hand, there is no greater offering or service than to teach and inspire; on the other, what a shame it is to stunt another being’s growth. The difference is in mentors who have faith and intend to share it versus those who are afraid to, for one reason or another. In mindfulness, we talk about giving, gratitude, and compassion. If being mindful, spiritual, or meditative has helped us – sleep, relax, decompress, shift our perspectives, enjoy more – perhaps someone else can benefit, too. If we lean into the ripple effect of our practice, we can be a source of inspiration to someone else.

Today’s practice is to be. Be a teacher. Be an example. Be curious. Be open to going in a little deeper. Be open to looking back at whose hand you might grab. Be afraid, and “do It anyway.” Be strong for someone young. Be strong for someone old. Be real. “Be an opener of doors,” as Emerson says.

I Stand at the Door
By Sam Shoemaker 

I stand by the door.
I neither go too far in, nor stay too far out.
The door is the most important door in the world –
It is the door through which men walk when they find God.
There is no use my going way inside and staying there,
When so many are still outside and they, as much as I,
Crave to know where the door is.
And all that so many ever find
Is only the wall where the door ought to be.
They creep along the wall like blind men,
With outstretched, groping hands,
Feeling for a door, knowing there must be a door,
Yet they never find it.
So I stand by the door.

The most tremendous thing in the world
Is for men to find that door – the door to God.
The most important thing that any man can do
Is to take hold of one of those blind, groping hands
And put it on the latch – the latch that only clicks
And opens to the man’s own touch.

Men die outside the door, as starving beggars die
On cold nights in cruel cities in the dead of winter.
Die for want of what is within their grasp.
They live on the other side of it – live because they have not found it.

Nothing else matters compared to helping them find it,
And open it, and walk in, and find Him.
So I stand by the door.

Go in great saints; go all the way in –
Go way down into the cavernous cellars,
And way up into the spacious attics.
It is a vast, roomy house, this house where God is.
Go into the deepest of hidden casements,
Of withdrawal, of silence, of sainthood.
Some must inhabit those inner rooms
And know the depths and heights of God,
And call outside to the rest of us how wonderful it is.
Sometimes I take a deeper look in.
Sometimes venture in a little farther,
But my place seems closer to the opening.
So I stand by the door.

There is another reason why I stand there.
Some people get part way in and become afraid
Lest God and the zeal of His house devour them;
For God is so very great and asks all of us.
And these people feel a cosmic claustrophobia
And want to get out. ‘Let me out!’ they cry.
And the people way inside only terrify them more.
Somebody must be by the door to tell them that they are spoiled.
For the old life, they have seen too much:
One taste of God and nothing but God will do any more.
Somebody must be watching for the frightened
Who seek to sneak out just where they came in,
To tell them how much better it is inside.
The people too far in do not see how near these are
To leaving – preoccupied with the wonder of it all.
Somebody must watch for those who have entered the door
But would like to run away. So for them too,
I stand by the door.

I admire the people who go way in.
But I wish they would not forget how it was
Before they got in. Then they would be able to help
The people who have not yet even found the door.
Or the people who want to run away again from God.
You can go in too deeply and stay in too long
And forget the people outside the door.
As for me, I shall take my old accustomed place,
Near enough to God to hear Him and know He is there,
But not so far from men as not to hear them,
And remember they are there too.

Where? Outside the door –
Thousands of them. Millions of them.
But – more important for me –
One of them, two of them, ten of them.
Whose hands I am intended to put on the latch.
So I shall stand by the door and wait
For those who seek it.

I had rather be a door-keeper
So I stand by the door.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Joe Barbour

    Great post today, Elinor! Thank you!!

  2. Jen Pen

    Being an encourager is so valuable and a gift for the receiver and giver.
    Thanks for all the poetry you expose us to on the blog!

  3. Ann Barbour

    So good, and relevant – I hope everyone has success in their attempt to be – I know I’m going to give my intention my attention:) ?

  4. Catherine

    E-beautiful-such important realizations:)

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