Thursday, July 23, 2009

Surprising Teachers

Never underestimate the potential to learn from anyone and everyone who crosses your path. One particular teacher arrived for me, moving slowly, on two canes. The canes were holding up a body that had known so much life. I saw him there, attentive and sharp, and knew that there was a story to be told. Only after his death, did I truly know the extent of his courage.

Teachers come in all shapes and sizes, and you have to be ready to be surprised if you want to learn from brilliance. There were some Sundays I rushed past this man with his canes. I had places to be. If I had stopped long enough, I would have discovered that the canes masked a life of athleticism and joy. What else am I missing? What other inspirations are passing me by?

Early this year, the Washington Post conducted an experiment. They arranged for one of the best violinists in the world, Joshua Bell, to play a 3.5 million dollar violin in the subway during rush hour. Two days earlier, Bell played to a full theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

He played anonymously in the subway for 45 minutes. In that time, only six people stopped to listen and he collected a total of $32. At the end, no one applauded. He simply packed up and left. The only person who really paid attention was a three year old boy who was quickly hurried on by his mother.

A verse in the Bible that has always intrigued me says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2)

Who are the angels in your life that inspire and teach you? Do you always recognize them straightaway? Do you pause long enough to appreciate brilliance when you aren’t expecting it?

If we hurry past one of the best musicians in the world without paying attention, what else are we missing? If you expect all your teachers to be standing by a white board with a book and marker in hand, you might miss the ordinary brilliance that surrounds you every day.

Learn from children to be happy for no particular reason. Learn from pets to immerse yourself in life with playful abandon. Learn from veterans to throw yourself into service of others without fully knowing the cost. Learn from the dying to let go and from those in recovery to hang on. Learn from nameless janitors and men with canes. Be inspired by underground musicians and people with stories of courage

Keep paying attention to all of them, lest you miss entertaining angels in disguise.

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