As the summer begins to wind down, kids and parents alike are preparing for the beginning of a brand-new school year. Organizing schedules, arranging carpools, picking out school clothes, checking off lists of supplies, and, of course, dealing with the back-to-school jitters. We send our children off to school where they will spend 7 hours a day with their classmates and their teachers; sadly, more time than I will spend with them at home.
I came across a quote from award-winning playwright Tony Kushner:
“Every student needs someone who says, simply, ‘You mean something. You count.’”
I can’t imagine hoping for anything better when I think of the teachers that are at the helm of my children’s education. To have someone who isn’t just reciting facts and theories by rote, but someone who cares whether they are integrating the information. Someone who is passionate about teaching their students and, ultimately, someone who can lead them to see and understand everything that makes them wonderful; someone who helps them to know their worth and their potential.
There have been many teachers over the years who did this for me (and a few notable exceptions who did not), and as I sit here reflecting on them, I see how this has become my goal as well. Helping others to experience their own potential, to create healthy relationships, to live a life without fear, and a life addicted to positive change is my greatest passion. What all of these distill down to is the profound idea offered by Mr. Kushner: You mean something.
If you are reading this, I’m sure you can think of a few people in your life who showed you the ways in which you matter. Perhaps it was a teacher, but it could also be a parent, a family member, or a friend. The person who witnessed you at your best and at your not-so-great, and still held that high vision of you, for you. Who assisted you not only in your physical or mental growth but in your emotional, and maybe even spiritual growth too.
Imagine that person right now. What gift did they give you? Was it patience while you struggled to understand something? Maybe they were there rooting for you during a trying time. Or maybe they offered you hope when you thought there was none. Or believed in you when you didn’t believe in yourself.
Whatever they may have done, this person believed in your inherent value and worth. When we take on the task of growing, learning, or changing in any way, we will go through periods of challenge and opposition. This is a natural part of the process of transformation and it is often so easy to succumb to feelings of self-doubt. Kabbalah teaches that our souls are never damaged, they are whole and complete; a perfected version of ourselves is available in every moment. It is this perfected self that the best teachers reflect back to us. And it is something we can offer to everyone in our lives as well.
The Baal Shem Tov, one of the great kabbalists, says, “The way that I behave towards the world and others is how the Light of the Creator behaves towards me.” When we let those in our lives know that they matter, the Creator reminds us that the very same thing is true for us.
Imagine for a moment if every person we met throughout our day treated us this way. Better yet, think of how your life would change if you treated every person you met – from your family, friends, and co-workers with this level of human dignity and respect. The world would be a different place if it was full of people who knew their worth.
The point is, you count. You matter. You have the ability in every moment to extend kindness, to share in radical ways, and in so doing to mimic the Light of the Creator. Having an appreciation for yourself and for the fact that you matter helps you to give this gift to others—making you someone’s greatest teacher.
THOUGHT INTO ACTION
When you think of the ways that you matter, what comes to mind? Who helped you to see and know this part of yourself and how can you pay that forward in your life?