Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Anyone Can Teach If We Are Willing To Learn

Never Lose Hope

Today I was contacted by a former student, one who’d undoubtedly taught me more than I’d taught him.  He’d also caused me to think about normality differently from even the multifaceted way in which I’d previously viewed it.  His name was Rip, short for Euripides, he had once explained to me, as his mother was into Greek Tragedy.
Rip was extremely bright though this description doesn’t do him justice.  There are many bright individuals walking the earth who use their knowledge only to gain admiration. Rip simply loved learning new things and discussing them with others.  Unfortunately, there were few he could find who would engage with him.  He had what would probably be labeled as Asperger’s Syndrome.

As the weeks passed we began to discuss all types of subjects and their implications.  I was fascinated by his reflections on the wide variety of topics he’d read about, all by choice.  I also came to be amazed by the seemingly limitlessness of his interests, and his ability to apply them to his life.
One day, after a lecture about social development Rip approached me looking out of sorts.  His shifted from one foot to another, remaining silent, a sure sign something was bothering him.  Then suddenly without uttering a word he began to walk off.  I sensed there was something he needed to say but that he feared the possibility of rejection.  Though desperately wanting to ask, I knew pushing him would result in a melt down and forced myself to let him go, despite the knots forming in my stomach.  I left in the opposite direction, feeling inept as my feet dragged me away.

Then, from behind, I heard Rip call me.  I turned towards him, noticing a pained look on his face.  He held my eyes silently for a beat then asked, “Why do I feel like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole?”

I struggled to come up with an answer that would speak to what I knew he was asking.  Before I could manage this, he asked an even more difficult question.
“What do I do?  I don’t want to be round.” 

Undoubtedly unprofessional, though I admit I wasn’t feeling particularly professional at the time, angry that he’d been made to feel this way, I responded from sheer emotion. 

“I think you should be the person you want to be, whether it’s square, triangular or hexagonal for that matter,” I replied.  “Whatever shape you choose to assume, I know it will be real, filled with meaning and possess the very potential of the Universe itself.” 

I think I shocked him and know I shocked myself with my rather unusual and forcefully uttered reply.  A moment passed.  Then another.

And then a smile slowly lit his face.  Without another word he walked toward the door at the other end of the hall leaving me standing stone still contemplating the lesson he’d taught me that day.  When able to move, I turned toward the door opposite where Rip had exited.  As I walked, having lost the drag but gained a slight bounce, I felt a smile grace my face which tumbled into laughter.  For once I couldn’t have cared less about the odd looks I received.

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