Somebody said once that nobody can become a stand up comedian without having suffered extreme hardships such as hunger, homelessness, and /or serious illnesses. In order to laugh at life, one must have cried in despair. Indeed, in order to appreciate what life has to offer, beauty, peace, harmony, aromatic scents of flowers, the irresistible attraction of freshly baked bread, the caress of a soft breeze, recently mowed grass, the infectious laughter of babies, the happy cries of children playing, the slight tapping of rain on the roof, the gentle splash of trouts in the river, and whatever is happening around us that makes us feel happy and at peace with the world, we must be fully conscious that it can all disappear in a flash.
It’s only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth — and that we have no way of knowing when our own time is up — that we will begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had.
- Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
Very few of my students understand me when I hold this melancholic and, at the same time, joyful discourse. The geographical area where I teach is officially named as poor, and yet most kids live a relatively satisfying life. The welfare net makes sure they have housing, food on the table, school supplies, and transportation to and from school. If they live some harships and suffering, it is entirely due to human factors. To my sadness, I know some teens do drugs: their behavior is erratic, from sleepy to agressive. Others live in foster homes which only care about the next government check. Still others have been abused by violent fathers or careless mothers.
Occasionally, a student will trust me enough to expose their difficulties; if it is abuse, I must report it. If it is the lack of love, I can only lend a supportive ear and an occasional piece of advice. In these days of fears of lawsuits or false sexual accusations, a teacher treads with great care. “Do not speak to a student alone; always have somebody else present who can testify that you haven’t done anything wrong,” a friend told me when I was starting my career. As a society, we have learned not to trust anybody, not even family members. What does that say about us?
How can we enjoy the beauty life offers us daily if we live in fear? How can our students face the world with confidence if they believe that every street corner hides some unforeseen danger? How can we transmit the hallowed values of honesty, frankness, trust, and altruism, when these same children enjoy a steady diet of the opposite on television?
Teachers and parents can do their best and hope for the best. Now more than ever before, the future looms menacing: bugs resistant to antibiotics, the end of natural resources, the break-up of the traditional family and of the traditional concept of marriage, the relaxed values and loose sexual behavior, the everpresent threat of nuclear holocaust, extended famine in large parts of the world, ocean contamination, more and more violent tornadoes due to global warming, climate extremes, and our increased dependence on government’s help.
So enjoy Nature while you can; there may not be much time left!