Superintendent Contreras Provides InterFaith Works Daily Inspiration Articles This Week
InterFaith Works and Syracuse Media Group combine to provide Daily Inspiration on Syracuse.com and in the Post Standard. Superintendent Contreras will be providing this week’s Daily Inspiration articles.
I still find inspiration from the Bible stories I learned as a child. One of my favorites is about Joseph the Dreamer. Joseph finds himself in a deep pit; the pit serves as a metaphor for life's difficulties. Sadly, some children find themselves in the pit of depression, poverty, underachievement, hunger or abuse. Escape may seem impossible, but when at the bottom of a pit--look up! Joseph's exit from the pit was through imprisonment, but his talent brought about his freedom. Children must know that it may seem dark now, but their talents, some still undiscovered, may lead to their triumph.
As adults, we have accumulated a repository of life-lessons that we can and should share with our children. Yet, the best time to share these invaluable nuggets is not necessarily when we are upset. Marian Wright Edelman wrote letters to her sons compiled in the book: The Measure of Our Success. Because of the preeminence of technology, we do not write personal letters often. Take time this week to make a difference in the life of a child by encouraging them through a personal letter. Let them know that they are valued and while mistakes are inevitable, their futures remain bright.
Paul Tough wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times: "How Students Graduate." He refers to a study that suggests students are unsuccessful for two reasons: (1) feeling that they don't belong, and (2) a belief that they are not smart enough. Far too many children believe that schools are not places for them. Might we envision and create caring schools where all students are able to develop their individual talents and come to the realization that intelligence is malleable? Let us commit to schools where all students are accepted and pushed to achieve more than they ever thought possible.
I hear my mother's voice singing the great hymn: Love Lifted Me. As I grew older, I came to understand the power of love in transforming lives. I was once asked during an interview what I thought was the greatest crisis facing public education. I responded, "We must embrace the concept of unconditional love." Love is a universal truth. Yet, some children haven't been fortunate enough to experience love in their communities or even in their homes. Others sadly perceive a lack of love in their schools. Let us endeavor to love all children more deeply for love indeed lifts and never fails.
A few days ago, I reviewed 1940 census records to examine my grandmother's entry. My grandmother migrated to New York in 1939--temporarily leaving my four-year old mother behind--to escape the vicious cycle of sharecropping in rural South Carolina. Grandmother was listed on the census record as a servant, working in a household 58 hours per week for the grand total of $240 each year. That's $4.61 per week or $.08 cents per hour. Having had to end her formal schooling during fourth grade to work in the fields, a maid was one of the few jobs available to my grandmother. She married my grandfather who toiled for more than forty years in an incinerator plant. My grandparents worked hard, purchasing two homes on Long Island--one for their only child.
Like my maternal grandparents, my paternal grandparents also travelled north to New York for a better life. My grandfather came to the United States from Venezuela through Ellis Island; my grandmother migrated from Puerto Rico after the U.S. Congress passed the Jones-Shafroth Act. Sadly, my paternal grandparents passed away before I was born, but I was fortunate to share many years with my maternal grandparents. I am struck that neither of them ever complained about the brutality of sharecropping or their backbreaking work in New York. Instead, they were incredibly grateful. My grandparents were grateful for the opportunity to rise above their circumstances and to leave their child and grandchildren land and a legacy.
Do we exude a spirit of gratefulness in our everyday lives? We have a tendency to complain, never considering that others have or have had it far worse than we can ever imagine. The great poet Maya Angelou urged: "Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer..." Amen.