A Mother's Wisdom

If a botanist were to study the trees near my old home place in Wise County, they would discover few of the trees had low hanging branches.

After some study, they may conclude that livestock or deer had eaten all of the low branches for food. Perhaps they would think some type of disease had destroyed the lower branches, the runoff of the coal mines damaged the trees, or some other type of natural disaster occurred.

Regardless, they would probably not determine the true cause of this phenomenon unless they grew up in that location and at that time.

Most of the branches were missing because our mother made us go outside and cut our own switches when she felt we needed to be disciplined. Unfortunately, she had this specific belief often.

There were few trees within miles of our house that had branches a person could reach by the time we graduated from high school.

Robert Fulghum wrote a wonderful book entitled, “What on Earth Have I Done?” In this book and other articles, Fulghum wrote about things his mother used to say to him when she was frustrated about something he had done. He didn’t mention in his book his mother made him cut his own switches but she repeatedly said a few phrases. He wrote he had heard the following phrases many times by this mother when he was young. Often, she said, “What on Earth have you done, who do you think you are, what in God’s name are you doing now, and what are you going to do next?” He wrote his mother said this so often he began to treat the words as background noise with little thought about them. My mother used the same phrases so perhaps all mothers are involved in the same parenting class.

As he grew older, these words began to take on a whole different meaning as he reflected on his life.

He began to really think about, “What on Earth have I done?” as he got older. He wondered if he had dedicated his life to the most important things that added value to the world or had he wasted his life pursuing meaningless endeavors.

He thought about, “Who do you think you are?” He reflected on his life and who he really was. Had he developed those core-inner values which made him a good person? The question of, “What in God’s name are you doing now?” had a totally different meaning because he was concerned about his spiritual life. The last question, “What are you going to do next” was even more important to him because he wanted to ensure his remaining days counted for something.

Fulghum’s book is an easy read and it helps the reader to reflect on his or her own life. The beginning of school may be an excellent time for this type of reflection. I am concerned many of us become so involved in the daily routines of making a living that we fail to actually live a life that is worth living. It may be beneficial if all of us would take a little time from the daily grind and reflect on these four questions.

Our life could be more meaningful, more productive, and add more value to this world if we reflected and acted on these questions.

We need to know who we are so we can remain committed to our core values when life becomes busy and we become conflicted.

We need to think about why we are actually here and what we are going to do with the days we have left. We did to be thoughtful about what we are going to do next and make sure we do things of value. Our life needs to be spiritually based and connected beyond on mere physical being.

Often I am concerned we may not be modeling the best life for our youth to follow because we are too focused on our own needs and rarely think of others. Political leaders, community leaders, parents, teachers and administrators often struggle with making the difficult decisions.

At times, it seems our problem solving skills are not exemplary. In our current age, we tend to solve problems by attempting to shout over those in opposition to what we believe. At times, we do this with little respect or kindness. We are so focused on arguing our point that we fail to listen to other ideas and thoughts. Our mission is focused on defeating our competition with no thought about creating a win/win situation. Clearly our youth are watching us and we need to ensure the path we are walking is a good one for them.

We, as a school district, are committed to helping our students succeed but we need the help of everyone in Hamblen County. We can be more successful when the entire community consolidates its effort and energy.

However, we must first help ourselves if we are going to help others.

Please take some time this year to internally respond to those four question and find your place in this community. God didn’t give anybody everything but we gave everyone something. Part of our life mission should be dedicated to finding our “something” so we can effectively share with others. This may involve volunteering in our schools, helping with the youth in church, participating in a civic organization which gives back to our community, or working directly with our students.

Our school district motto this year is, “Be the One!” Throughout my life, I have constantly heard individual say they wished someone would do this or do that. They wished someone had the time, energy, vision, or courage to make a difference. Often these individuals fail to understand they could be the one. All of us have the power to make a difference but first we have to accept the responsibility and truly believe we could be that one person.

However, having the desire to help is only the first step. We need skills to be the most effective. We can be of more benefit to others when we are more stable and settled internally. Finding the answers to those questions may be an excellent starting point on our journey to improving our own condition.

This school year, pledge to be that individual who chooses to be the one. Many of our students may think they possess no chance in the world to be successful but we need to provide them with that one chance. Often that chance, coupled with the belief and encouragement of one committed person who cares, will be all these children need to be successful. If all of us took the time to truly reflect deeply on our life we could be of more value to our youth. Our students are growing up in a difficult world filled with struggle and strife. There are constant challenges and obstacles facing our children and they need our help. This is an excellent time of the year to commit, or recommit, to helping our youth reach their potential.

Take some time to reflect on your own life, discover your talents, and be the one to intervene to help our youth have a positive and productive school year. Thanks for your attention to this article and remember, School Matters!