To The Ones Who Show Up

On the days when it feels like the whole world needs a hug, I’m reminded of this quote from Mother Teresa, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” I think what she was really saying is that when we take really good care of the people in our care, we better equip them to care for others.

That sentiment has me thinking about schools lately. I will set the family part of that quote aside and replace it with community. “If you want to change the world, go to school and care for your community.” Keynote speakers can inspire, books can get us thinking, blogposts can feel like a hug, but it’s the people who take that inspiration into their school communities and into their daily decisions and actions who are changing the world. One child at a time. One colleague at a time. One classroom at a time. One school and district at a time.

My mom found some of my journals from when I was kid. She laughed at how honest my writing was, and the truth is, I still want my writing to be honest. If we aren’t doing honest work, what are we doing? So, in spirit of being very honest, I want to share that I am absolutely terrified to put the book I’ve written out into the world. When I wrote the book, I wrote it because I wanted to write an honest book that could support and encourage others. A relatable, practical book where I was not focused on looking smart or painting myself in a heroic light. I want the book to feel like a conversation between two people who care about our beautiful profession. Two people who want the work to be manageable, enjoyable, and impactful. Two people who also want to live healthy, happy lives outside of school.

And now, the closer this book comes to publication, the more fear and insecurity are there. I find myself more outwardly focused. Did I write enough? Research enough? Say things the right way? Will this book be a “good” book? Will other people like it or judge it? What will people think of me?

When I’m in that place, I try not to judge myself or those feelings. I think that’s a pretty natural reaction to putting ourselves out there. So I notice the thoughts, and I remind myself of where those thoughts are coming from, and then I also remind myself of that Mother Teresa quote. I remind myself that my legacy will not be in likes on Instagram or retweets on Twitter. I remind myself that my legacy will be in the small moments like today when I passed a student and her intervention specialist in the hallway. After simply greeting her, smiling, and saying, “Happy Valentine’s Day,” she turned to her intervention specialist and said, “She is really nice.” And the intervention specialist replied, “She IS really nice.” If that is my legacy, that’s a beautiful legacy. My legacy will be in the cups of hot chocolate that our team served to over 120 staff members today. My legacy will be felt in hand-written notes of encouragement and moments of presence in stop and chats. My legacy will be the times that I played with students at recess. In the times I called students at home during the Covid shutdown to sing them happy birthday. I sing terribly I might add.

My legacy will be a simple legacy. One of kindness and care. One of simply seeing others and being fully in the moments with them.

My legacy is our legacy. It’s the legacy of educators who have dedicated their lives to caring for and nurturing the potential of other people’s children and each other. Every time someone goes out into the world to do good, those who cared for, nurtured, inspired, and stretched them along the way are part of that person’s story. Educators are changing the world through others every day. This is our legacy.

Maybe the anniversary of my dad’s passing has me feeling sentimental. Maybe it’s Valentine’s Day that has me a little in my feelings. Maybe these are things I tell myself to keep my identity separated from an upcoming book publication that terrifies me. Who knows.

I know one thing for sure – it’s how we show up for ourselves and each other that really matters in the end. What a beautiful opportunity we have to impact the world through small moments with others. Let’s treat others and these moments like they are special. Because they are. What I would give for one more conversation with my dad. One more song to sing at the top of our lungs in the car together. One more chance to hear him laugh and make others laugh too.

Greg Lawson was so very alive. He changed the world through his family. Through me. I’m living this beautiful life for the both of us now, and I want my life to have meant something. I want to be someone who makes others feel alive and capable and inspired to make a positive difference.

On this day, a day about love, let’s set the grand gestures aside, and see the beauty in sunrises, smiles, kind words, and in the people who simply show up every day. Let’s here for the people who manage to keep their hearts soft in world that can be harsh. A lot of those people are working in schools, and I think that is a special legacy.

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