Pause to Listen

Inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #77: Pause

As the world bustles, and we rush to meet deadlines, check off to-do lists, and fulfill those party invites, find a moment to pause, look, and listen. Share a photograph, thought, or inspiration.

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It’s been a busy week. Next week – with Christmas in the middle – will be even busier.

However, I realized the need to…pause…in my usual December madness of holiday planning, shopping, wrapping, card writing – and all that leads up to the 25th.

This past Tuesday I flew to Washington DC to attend my daughter’s commencement ceremony at the Univ. of Maryland College of Education. Where she received a doctoral degree in Education Policy. How could I not go? Even if it was the week before Christmas. She worked extremely hard and I am so happy for her. Oh…and proud too.

Traveling is one of my least favorite activities as I’ve gotten older…especially in winter weather. So imagine my rising anxiety level on Tuesday with the snow falling at a steady clip as I rode the bus to the airport. No surprise when I found out (after boarding) that the plane was delayed.

I sat and waited….with a look out the window.

plane snow
First look

Two hours passed.

rain plane
Two hours later

All the while hoping the flight wouldn’t be cancelled.

rain plane window

My only choice…trapped in row 14 for 4 hours…was to pause, look and listen…

…but mostly to think…about the ceremony I would attend the following day, along with my son-in-law and grandson.

This would be the last of many graduations I’d attended for the little girl who grew up so fine and fast. Who loved school and learning from the age of 3. Passionate and driven by a desire to make this a better world for everyone. Not just for people like her…who are blessed with opportunity and privilege.

She was also the commencement student speaker.
I told my grandson, snuggled in my lap…Mama will be making a speech!
Why? he asked.
Because she has important things to say! I answered.

speech

She proposed a different approach for those graduates entering their postgraduate lives – the flip side of talking and sharing their voices…

….Pause. Close your mouth, calm your mind, allow for silence. Cultivate humility. Acknowledge the limits of your education and engage in the practice that scholars and advocates call “radical listening.” Community organizer and activist Chanel Lewis describes radical listening as “intentionally quieting your internal voice and judgments thereby offering your full mental space to the speaker and suspending what you presume to know about someone and their experience in our shared society.”…Radical listening, I argue, is a crucial skill to help move our world toward greater justice….
Dr. Kristin Sinclair

This is just a snippet of her three minute speech, but it caught my attention.

Pause.

You don’t hear that advice very often.
Usually it’s…Speak Up. Talk. Be heard.

Pause and listen…listen without judgment.

Perhaps that is radical.

But I like it.

It gave me much to think about on the plane the next day…before returning home to my holiday to-do list.

plane sun
Flying back home

 

Give Peace (and Education) a chance

Establishing lasting peace is the work of education; all politics can do is keep us out of war.

Maria Montessori

 

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Vote YES for the middle school expansion!

Today is voting day in my small town. Or…as it was formerly known…Town Meeting Day. Or, more specifically, Town Meetin’ Day.

Many years ago, it was actually an open meeting for all town residents. Who assembled on folding chairs set up in the town hall. Votes were cast on various budget items and for the election of town officials. Attendees were given an opportunity to stand and voice support or opposition to the matters at hand. Sometimes a paper ballot. Sometimes just a voice vote.

Now, as the town has changed – and the population has increased – we vote in voting booths. In the former high school’s gymnasium. Exactly the same way we vote in the general elections.

Some may say these local elections are not all that important.
I disagree.
We are choosing the individuals who will sit on the School Board. We are voting for the members of the Board of Selectman, which governs our town. Making crucial decisions. Rules affecting how we live, where we live, where we park. Public safety. Fire trucks. Street signs. Police activity.  Water quality. Local businesses also absorbing the direct and indirect ramifications.

Today there are over 20 individual budget items to consider, including the annual operating budget. One item on the ballot – for the 3rd year in a row – is all about education.

The middle school desperately needs to be expanded and renovated. Each yearly proposal has slashed more of its requests to reduce the cost. Letters to the Editor in the local paper shout out We Need This! or A Waste of Money! Often implying that the senior citizens…or those without school age children…are the reason this hasn’t been approved.

The financial burden of property taxes (which is how our schools are financed) is real. I get that. But I also know that the dollar increase due to this ballot item is not extraordinary. It averages out to a few monthly meals at the local bar and grill over the course of a year. Maybe. Or a weekly latte at the coffee shop.

So I ask myself…why don’t people understand the significance of educating our children to the best of our ability? Why do they want to keep class sizes large and cram kids into a too-small cafeteria? No music room? Art on a cart? Educating the whole child…what happened to that, I wonder….and its ramifications if not done with care. And, yes, with some sacrifice.

As cliché as it sounds, it remains a fact: (Everyone’s) Children are the Future.

My children were raised in a different town than where I currently live. I will always be grateful to the citizens who voted in favor of school improvements and supported the teachers with the salaries they needed and deserved. Despite the sacrifice. I know many of those voters were senior citizens. Who had the foresight – and wisdom – to understand the need. And the significance.

Our children and their education is important.
Voting is crucial.
Let’s not take either for granted.

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