Every year, the students of our school spend the first two weeks of January studying and celebrating the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We read books; we have discussions about fairness, justice, and equality; we create beautiful pieces of art; and we perform service activities--all in his name. The culmination of our work is a community gathering in which the children sing their songs, share their artwork, and explain the importance of their service work. As you can imagine, it is truly inspiring.
Until this year, though, it had also been a chore. It was another thing that "had to be done." In particular, our final day of celebration had always been highly stressful in a number of ways. From walking all 150 students across town, to ensuring they sit quietly and respectfully in the beautiful old church, to being sure that they are being kind and attentive audience members--my attention has always been focused on the "must dos" and on making sure that everything was done "right."
As I sat in the audience, I suddenly realized that, over all these years, I had been missing the most important part. I hadn't been watching and listening to the children as they lifted their voices in song, or spoke the words they had so carefully crafted to explain what this special day represented for them.
So, I stopped.
I stopped fussing at my class to sit quietly. I stopped checking the agenda to see what came next. I stopped looking at my watch to make sure we were on time. Instead, I looked to the stage where over 40 beautiful kindergartners and first graders were singing about how "just one little person" could make a difference in our world. I looked at the sincerity on their faces, and listened to the powerful energy in their voices. And then I did the same as the other students took to the stage, showed their work, and expressed--in their own words--what the life of Dr. King had meant to them.
I am learning...slowly, but surely, I am learning. I am learning to stop and to truly be in the moment. I am learning to more fully understand and believe that this moment really is all that we ever have. And since it is, I must also learn to be constantly aware and present, or I will surely miss the importance that each of these moments has to offer.