Monday, August 20, 2012

INSPIRATION: Oh My God / I Am a Seed

My sister is five years older than me, and so as I was going through the end of middle and high school, Mary was already off in college. As like most 13 - 18 year old boys, my body was constantly changing and growing. I would sprout at such a pace and my transformations in between her visits from college were so drastic that she would actually call me a "weed". Unfortunately and even though I'm still holding out for a late spurt, my green thumb didn't last much past 6'. I may not be much of a weed anymore, but I am a seed.

The above video comes from a group called The Digital Age. They are the resurrection of The David Crowder Band, forming after the aforementioned band decided to break up. The song, which appeared on DCB's last album, "Give Us Rest (A Requiem Mass in C [The Happiest of All Keys])", and the fact that this reborn version of the song is being sung by a reborn version of the band are great illustrations of the mystery of the Resurrection. Our lives, in many different ways, follow this Pascal pattern. We suffer. We die. We rise. As the song says, "Death will lose and we will win / I am a seed / I've been pushed down into the ground, but I will rise up a tree / I am a seed / I won't stay long here in this earth when you rain your love on me / Lord, rain your love on me."

We are seeds. So are our students. Nothing illustrates this better than the beginning of a new school year. Last year is in the earth. Buried. The promise of new life breaks forth from the ground and hopefully by the end of the year our students will rise up as trees. We have new soil with which to work. If we, as educators, have appropriately rejuvenated over the summer, we may also have some new fertilizer, nutrients and/or nurturing techniques to use this year. A new day is dawning. The rains will come, but will only serve to strengthen our young buds. Sprinkle in a little love, from both ourselves and from God, and we should be able to reap an abundant harvest.

St. John Baptist de la Salle says this about teachers, "Be satisfied with what you can do, since God is satisfied with it, but do not spare yourself in what you can do with grace; and believe that, provided you want it, you can do more with the grace of God than you think."

This year, let us do more than we've ever done with students. Let us do more than we can even think possible. Let us not put limits on ourselves or our students. Let us ask for God to rain His love down on us and let us allow Him to amaze us with His creation.

He is the Gardener; we are merely the workers. We are merely seeds...but we (and our students) will rise up into trees.

It is time for us to get to work. Let us begin.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

INSPIRATION: Keep Your Eyes Open

I have wonderful parents. In light of all of the publicity that the parents of Olympic athletes have received (whether positive or negative) as well as my own journey in parenthood, I realize how amazing Robert and Linda Zelenka were, and - praise God - still are. I realize how much they love me. I realize how pivotal there were in shaping me into the person that I am today. I realize, not for the first time or the last, that I have wonderful parents.

In looking back on my childhood, I am impressed by how my parents were able to teach me how to survive while at the same time never making me feel as if I was alone. Their love and support, tough at times, was constant (and still is!). Yet, they were able to strike the balance between sheltering me and allowing me to scrape a few knees, elbows, hands, heads...They gave me roots and wings.

They encouraged me to take chances, but demanded that I make commitments. The only thing I've ever quit - basketball during my junior year of high school - was followed by my enlisting in our school's wrestling team. Of course, my parents supported me. Flippant, though, they would not allow my decision to be. I remember my dad challenging me, if switching to wrestling really was in my future, to stick with it for the entire season.

They helped get me through the University of Notre Dame while I chased a dream of playing collegiate football as a walk-on. I paid off my final student loan last month, a term that would have been much longer had it not been for my parents' many sacrifices.

My parents' support extends well beyond my athletic career. They supported my decision to major in Notre Dame's Great Books Program, the University's equivalent of an education in the seven classic Liberal Arts. Heck, my mom was practically the inspiration when she guided me to declare a major that would excite me for my time in college, not necessarily prepare me for any particular career after I was done. They accepted me joining a service organization upon graduation (the Alliance for Catholic Education) and they have been interested and involved in my career in education.

They are even okay with me living over 1,000 miles away from their home in Berea, OH, making the trip down to Florida a few times a year to spend time with me and my growing family. Despite the distance in miles, I feel a closeness to them that I hope and pray my own children will one day have with me and Emily. I know of their unconditional, selfless and immense love for me. Thinking about my parents loving me today as much as I love my own daughter is simply amazing. Knowing that they've loved me like this my entire life is humbling. 

In a song by Matt Maher called Woke Up in America (see my first INSPIRATION blog for more info on Matt), he sings:
My parents gave me a life full of dreams / yeah, they gave me a heart to endure almost anything.
Perhaps the Zelenkas knew the Mahers, because I couldn't agree more. My parents gave me dreams. They galvanized me to chase after them. They instilled me with faith and taught me how to see with it instead of my eyes.

As the Olympics near their end, we will most likely hear something about the parent(s) of yet another athlete. If nothing else, we'll see some overly sacchrine commercials about how much the mom and/or dad of an Olympian has helped them to compete in London. I'm not in London and I'm not an Olympic athlete, but I have wonderful parents. World class. Olympic.  

Thanks, Mom and Dad. I love you.