I woke up on Monday morning and I was dragging. The attacks in Paris and Beirut were on my mind. My heart felt heavy. My motivation and optimism were low. Over the next hour I slowly pushed myself forward. I coaxed myself to get on with my day when all I really wanted to do was stay covered up in bed, safe from the world. As I reflected on my own personal struggle that morning I thought about the nature of motivation, how elusive it can suddenly become. I also thought about how I seemingly tricked myself to get going anyway, and how, in doing so, I was able to leave some of the heaviness behind.
As I arrived at the office and started to greet the staff, early bird tutors, and students, I wondered what their mornings had been like. Was this a day when they, too, tricked themselves to get going? As I watched people settle in and get to work, I could truly see and feel our connectedness. I didn’t see our differences that morning, despite the fact that I was surrounded by an amazingly diverse group of people. There was a woman from China next to a retiree I knew to be struggling with a health problem. There was a refugee from Sudan and a man from Iran and an immigrant from Mexico. There were my coworkers, some with personal troubles I knew they were carrying with them. They were smiling and working to get tutors and students what they needed to get to work. There were men and women, black and white. There were young adults and elderly people. There were retired teachers and bankers and housewives and professors. There were artists and math geeks and gamers and cooks and on and on. Yet, I genuinely felt connected to each and
every one there.
Often I see how disconnected from each other we have become. But on this morning I could see and feel how each person was connected to me and to each other by our common struggles as humans. To persist and carry on, to push back our fears, to take our focus off of our heavy hearts and get out of bed anyway; to find our optimism that things can get better and that we can do something about it ourselves was the common thread that felt so real and true. It made me feel stronger and more optimistic to notice this thread; I was not alone. I could see that morning that all the people around us are not as different from us as they sometimes might appear. And not only that, they did not seem scary, they seemed just like me.
Where am I going with this you might want to know? Well my optimism has not only returned but my heart is full. I can see how this place, Literacy Services of Wisconsin, is so much more than the sum of its tutoring sessions and GEDs, student progress and citizenships received. It is a place that transcends differences to build genuine connections and understanding between seemingly “different” people. Our common bonds emerge, new solutions are found, we are vulnerable together and through it we find strength. It might just be an antidote to fear, terror, despair, and hate.
I don’t think so.