Back to School

When my oldest brother became a grandfather, I felt proud of him...and then I felt oldish. If he's a grandpop, I'm a great uncle! His grandson is now 8 1/2 years old and the other day I received a text-picture of him and his baby sister ready for their first day back to school; somehow I could pick up that new clothes smell through my phone.

Do you remember the jitters or joy (or combination of both) the week before, the night before, your first day back to school? I was with another brother at his house when several of his kids were waiting for the bus at the bottom of the hill. It was another first day back to school and parents had set up tables of bagels and juice, fruit and snacks. What a wonderful way for families to celebrate this minor rite of passage.

It seems that the longer I live the more I'm discovering new classrooms. It is said that when the student is ready, the teacher arrives. I'm not so sure, because there are times when a lesson has been thrust upon me uninvited or the test is not an open book; some answers are not erasable and others have no grading curve mercy.

On the other side of the teacher's desk, I recall the summer of 1986 when I was tutoring adults in poor, rural Appalachia. What pride in their eyes when these coal miners could finally pen their name and differentiate "V as in valley" from "W as in water." Somehow they got convinced that it was never too late to go back to school. I was honored to help them get there.

The truth is that we stop learning and growing and widening our horizon only at our peril. A Turkish proverb suggests that one should "fear an ignorant man more than a lion." Perhaps we can all take a page from the eager kids on-line at home or masked in a classroom: to be amazed by the lessons which abound all around is to know it's not too late.