Sunday, March 29, 2015

New Beginnings

Abundant rains have certainly drawn beauty from the earth this spring. We worried about the jonquils around here during the ice and snow when they were first coming into flower, but these hardy plants seemed to flourish in the bad weather. So did the japonica and now the forsythia is showing off. Soon the dogwoods will join the parade and we will be in a wonderland sure enough.
Springtime represents a new beginning, just as Easter has always done in our culture. Mother tried annually, no matter how tight the budget, to get something new for us to wear on Easter Sunday. I have a photograph of my brother and me in our Easter garb, standing beside our family car, a two-tone 1952 Chevy. Curtis has on a pair of slacks and a new white sport coat with a neat little clip-on bow tie. I have on white bucks, blue jeans and a white shirt with extravagant red designs all over it. We both had fresh flattop haircuts and looked as well-groomed as we were likely to be all year.
New beginnings happened in the spring, so by the time fall semester at school rolled around, I was in no mood to begin again. I hated the start of the school year worse that a boil on the buttocks. Even though I worked as a messenger boy and carpenter’s helper during the summer, I found time for play and relaxation without any concern for bookish pursuits. But when school started, I always felt I was missing something, and usually what I was missing was fun and relaxation.
Oh, there was some fun associated with school, but not much. Let’s see, I liked band trips and trips with the band and, let me think, bus trips to ballgames with the band, and, well, that’s about it. You might ask why I thought fun was so important and academic pursuits were so irritating and unimportant. I would answer, I do not know. I suppose it took the great awakening of basic military training to convince me that fun was overrated. I learned there in the heat, with people yelling at me and, in some cases, shooting just above me, that life was serious business.
Even so, I find that a relaxed and playful attitude is a good one when it comes to learning. As a teacher, I used every technique known to the mind of man to get my students to learn and appreciate our rich literary heritage. Sometimes I was heavy-handed, hearkening to the voice of Hamlet, who said, “I am cruel only to be kind.” At other times I became an entertainer, thinking that by my theatrics I would transfer enthusiasm for the subject at hand. But when I finally relaxed and enjoyed the process of sharing what I knew of aesthetic pursuits, I found that many of my students got it.

I started out to say that spring was a season of new beginnings, so I will conclude by recommending relaxed and playful attitudes as we make new commitments to enrich the lives of others.

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