Monday, March 6, 2017

The Gift of the Starfish


Often we never know whether our work or words make a difference to anyone. Maybe it’s just as well, because if we got too many compliments, we might start living like the market place analysts trying to figure out what the people want and trying to give it to them so we can be popular, rich or famous. That’s no good for anyone.

But a well-timed note from someone letting you know that you touched them in some way is always welcome. I got a surprise one yesterday at my workshop and it particularly touched my heart because it referenced a story I shared (but did not invent) in a previous blog (I believe it was in January, titled “Save the Starfish!”).

The part I liked most was acknowledging the risks I took as an educator, talking about things in the context of my workshops that I don’t need to talk about and would be more popular and well-liked if I didn’t. But where is the glory in that? Our cowardice in not telling the stories that need to be heard and not asking the questions that need to be asked and refusing to pull aside the curtain of the bad man pulling the strings or declare that the Emperor is naked and it ain’t pretty, that habit of being nice and not rocking the boat is precisely what allows it all to go on unchecked. Having just seen the film “I Am Not Your Negro,” I’m sure James Baldwin would agree with me. He spent his life asking the provocative questions for which there were no easy answers. I’m with James. Just not as famous.

But that’s no reason to shut up. And yes, I’ve had my moments where I’ve stood too long on the soapbox and didn’t leave enough space for other points of view (the Orff workshop is not a great venue for that), but I’d rather err in the direction of being too outspoken than too meek and mild. And as my friend acknowledged, those articulated points of view come from a purposeful “vast fount of knowledge and expertise.” And finally, I loved that she accented the sharing of community, which helps steer it all away from adolescent adulation so common in our culture, makes clear that it’s not about me, but the choices I’ve made that help create community and are available for all to make in their own way.

I will hang this drawing by my desk as a constant reminder to keep pushing the envelope. While remembering to also pull from others (blog from March 4th). 

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