Archive for the ‘faith’ category

Where is everything beautiful?

April 2, 2014

003It has been a very long time since I updated this blog. I plan to begin again.

This morning for some reason I clicked on YouTube to hear a song from A Chorus Line. It is the song “At the Ballet;” I remember it even though it has been well over 35 years since I’ve heard it. Much of what I remember from A Chorus Line is from being a kid, watching TV when my “local” stations were from New York.  We always saw the commercials for the new Broadway plays. Much of what I know about any Broadway show from the mid-seventies, in fact, is from the commercials. From A Chorus Line I remember the lines, “Gimme the ball, gimme the ball, gimme the ball, YEAH!” and “Orchestra and balcony, what they want is what you see…” They must have played those clips in the commercial.

But “At the Ballet” I remember not from the commercials but from listening to the album at my cousin’s house. Even back then I thought that was a striking song about one’s life not being nearly as beautiful as what was experienced on stage through dance. The line I heard today that resonated was “Everything was beautiful at the ballet, raise your arms and someone’s always there.”

It made me remember a particular way of being that has long since left me. I remember when i could reach my hand out with full confidence that one of my four children would grab hold of it. I didn’t even have to look for them, I just had to put my hand out and they’d find it. When Liam (our fourth) was born, our oldest, Paddy, was still only three. We did not have any twins or even Irish twins, but our children were very close in age. And when they were young, they were all very young.

The diapers, the toddler’s clothes, the high chairs, the bassinets, and the gates protecting them from the stairs were all such a big part of our lives for what seemed forever. Now they are gone. I remember thinking long ago that the early years of parenting were physically exhausting, but I had guessed back then that the later years would be emotionally exhausting, and I think that has turned out to be somewhat the case.

And, I can’t be fully confident anymore that when i put my hand out someone will take it.

Parenting can be particularly challenging for someone like me, someone who tends toward the nostalgic. Loss is significant and it stays with me for what I am sure is much, much longer than it stays with anyone else. I guess I am realizing, bit by bit, that as wonderful as it is to see your children become almost-adult human beings, it can also be an experience of loss. When I told Liam yesterday, when he wanted to go to the gym but didn’t have his gym clothes, that he could use my locker because I had some clean clothes that he could wear, it struck me that this is the boy who told his grandmother at breakfast, “OOPS! I forgot to change out of my night times!” (“night times” would be his training underpants). That he can wear my clothes is both an experience of awe that we have made it this far and an experience of loss, for those days can never return. They won’t run to greet me at the door, they won’t laugh at my stupid jokes (I get plenty of groans), they won’t snuggle between me and Felicia in bed anymore.

Marriage has had its own ebbs and flows throughout our joint parenting experience. We each have our strengths and weaknesses, and the challenge is to keep reminding ourselves and each other of the strengths. The rest of the world, at times, seems intent on reminding us of our weaknesses. Our job should be to focus on the other.

Liam was two years old when Good Shepherd Montessori School was launched. Our involvement in this journey has been an experience of joy and loss in a way that seems very similar to parenting. And while he is getting ready to finish at GSMS, and Paddy is looking at colleges, and Clare is going to France, and Jack is taller than my father was (a man who seemed 8 feet tall to me), I am reminded that it’s harder for me to just put my hand out now and expect someone to hold it. Harder, but not yet impossible. Because Maeve, age 7, still expects to hold my hand.

I am eager to see who my children become, and I am excited to see how GSMS will continue to impact our community. The way the song resonated with me today was about putting my hand out for another hand, but it was also about looking at something on stage and believing it to be more beautiful than what I have. It is easy to do that, but my work is to see how beautiful this life really is. Whether the hand shows up in mine at a cross walk or is refused on a college campus.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Oh, and here’s the song I listened to this morning. And that cover is the cover of the album I remember putting on the stereo at my cousin’s house. Yes, everything is beautiful at the ballet, but it pales in comparison to what is happening right here in front of me.


Feast of St. James

October 18, 2011

“One who desires to be a teacher must have an interest in humanity that connects the observer more closely than that which joins the biologist or zoologist to nature.”   –Maria Montessori

My son, Liam, fishes during our summer vacation at Block Island

[This post was written on July 25. I didn’t  finish it at the time, but I am determined to get back into writing my blog, so I decided the first step is to go back and finish what I started.]

Today is the feast day of St. James the Apostle. It has been a very long time since I have written in my blog. Perhaps that demonstrates the kind of year I had last year. Very little time available for reflection. I hope to change that this year, and I hope the Feast of St. James helps me in that quest.

James walked with someone who promised him the truth. He followed someone who taught with authority but who used all sorts of creative ways to teach. He spent time with a storyteller who enthralled his listeners. He lived with a person of compassion whose integrity inspired greatness. Because of his exposure to this unique person, James was inspired to continue the work even after the charismatic leader was gone.

James was inspired by the teacher and the teacher in return loved the student. The teacher most likely didn’t make James memorize facts and figures, but the teacher allowed him to grasp new concepts by walking alongside the student and providing an environment wherein James could thrive.

The path is ours, together. The idea that the teacher is the only one in the room with something to contribute is, of course, not the case; the teacher is a member of a learning community whose particular task it is to inspire and entice the student to greatness. Maria Montessori didn’t expect (and didn’t desire) teachers to be the one and only resourcce for knowledge, opening up brains and inserting facts and figures. She intended the teacher to be a lover of humanity who desires to create an environment that is life-giving and allows the child to thrive.

St. James was lucky to be able to spend time with such a compassionate teacher. It is my hope that our children may experience even a fraction of that compassion so they may be inspired to a greatness of their own.

Abundance thinking

August 21, 2010

“It is not enough for the teacher to love the child. She must first love and understand the universe. She must prepare herself, and truly work at it.”  –Maria Montessori

a walk in the park

It can seem that scarcity is found at every turn. There’s just not enough. Not enough money, not enough time, not enough help, not enough inspiration.

However, we have too much work to do, too much to accomplish, so we need all the resources we can find; we cannot afford to focus on scarcity. A focus on scarcity limits possibilities. It divides rather than unites great people who think great things and do great work. Scarcity ignites fear; fear limits creativity.

Our focus instead is abundance, creativity, energy, and delight. Our message is invitation, not rejection; relationship, not isolation. Love over fear. Love for the universe, love for the community, love for the child. Love’s nature is abundance.

We can exist in a state of crisis or we can seek new and creative solutions together. We can lament the lack of (name your lack: money, resources, time, ideas, people, help, etc.) or we can extend ourselves and build together.

Abundance is everywhere, from the peony bush in my front yard that produces more flowers and aroma than it could possibly need for mere survival, to the wrens who nest in the box in my backyard and bring sweet-songed offspring to our neighborhood year after year after year, to the child whose curiosity and capacity for learning is limitless.

Am I challenged by running a school in these difficult economic times? Yes. Do I worry that the next grant proposal I write will amount to nothing, or the next visit with a benefactor will lead to rejection? Yes. Do I believe that this worry will get me anywhere? No. A focus on scarcity will not lead to abundance. A focus on abundance will generate abundance.

I have been accused of being too optimistic, too idealistic, but I cannot imagine that the alternative will lead to greatness. I d0 not see culture as an account of pessimistic, fear-based thinking. Culture is the story of new ideas, new inventions, new insights, new challenges, new risks.

Our children deserve to be surrounded by people who first love and (at least somewhat!) understand the universe, so full attention can be brought to loving and understanding the child. This, I believe, happens with abundance.

The Silence of the Teacher

July 23, 2010

“When the teacher shall have touched, in this way, soul for soul, each one of her pupils, a sign, a single word from her shall suffice; for each one will feel her in a living and vital way, will recognize her and will listen to her.” –Maria Montessori

Some quiet time alone

Some time to think.

So much can be accomplished without words, and yet so often I fall into the habit of talking too much, of thinking that if I just said it again, (perhaps more loudly!) I would be more effective. But one thing I admire about Montessori is the quiet, the things NOT said by the adult, the small signs and quiet directions, the attention to the essential rather than the superfluous. Seasoned Montessorians speak very little in the classroom, and I so enjoy being in their presence. They model for me the ability to focus on the essential message. It is a sacred connection the teacher has with the child, as Dr. Montessori’s quote above reveals, it is a connection among souls. We have an awesome responsibility to the child and to the future.

What a lofty but beautiful goal for the teacher to be connected in such a way with the child. Imagine the world we will create when each child has such a deeply connected adult guiding him or her in the essentials. Imagine what we can create with such a respectful, loving address of the human potential.

The Long Loneliness

July 14, 2010

Eight years ago we opened the doors to Good Shepherd Montessori School.  Today I have been reflecting on those years, and  I have been thinking about the epilogue to Dorothy Day’s Autobiography, The Long Loneliness. It is one of my favorite passages, and I have read it aloud to faculty and parents at different times over the course of the past eight years. I take heart in its message. It resonates with my experience of Good Shepherd. I thought this is a good time to share it here as well.

Thanks for indulging me.

We were just sitting there talking when Peter Maurin came in.

We were just sitting there talking when lines of people began to form, saying, “We need bread.” We could not say, “Go, be thou filled.” If there were six small loaves and a few fishes, we had to divide them. There was always bread.

We were just sitting there talking and people moved in on us. Let those who can take it, take it. Some moved out and that made room for more. And somehow the walls expanded.

We were just sitting there talking and someone said, “Let’s all go live on a farm.”

It was as casual as all that, I often think. It just came about. It just happened.

I found myself, a barren woman, the joyful mother of children. It is not always easy to be joyful, to keep in mind the duty of delight.

The most significant thing about The Catholic Worker is poverty, some say.

The most significant thing is community, others say. We are not alone anymore.

But the final word is love. At times it has been, in the words of Father Zossima, a harsh and dreadful thing, and our very faith in love has been tried through fire.

We cannot love God unless we love each other, and to love we must know each other. We know him in the breaking of bread, and we are not alone any more. Heaven is a banquet and life is a banquet, too, even with a crust, where there is companionship.

We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.

It all happened while we sat there talking, and it is still going on.


The Long Loneliness originally published by Harper & Row, 1952