I am currently introducing a community service project in my classroom. “This will be part of your grade in my class.” Mandatory community service. Is that the biggest oxymoron ever invented by western society? The students immediately complained and ranted, “DO we have to do this? This is an English class why do we have to do community service.” I took a deep breath. Whatever I had planned to explain, was no longer coming out of my mouth.
Instead I began to say what I felt. I was exploring the ideas as they were coming to me. So this is a Bit and Piece of my reflection.
Human beings are meant to create, not destroy. It doesn’t matter what we create as long as we create with our heart. Our real legacy doesn’t come from how much money we make or how popular or powerful we become. Our legacy comes when we create something that manifests our soul. When we create, we give birth to life and to love, over and over again. Part of creating is giving. We thrive when we give. . . of ourselves, of our time, of our love. It is through giving that we build and nurture our sense of love, compassion, justice, and dignity. Maya Angelou states with great wisdom, I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.
We live in a society of consumers. We consume TV, we consume video games, we consume music, we consume disposable products, which in turn create more waste, and, we consume unnecessary products that create clutter in our hearts and personal space. And when what we consume is not enough to numb our pain, we consume alcohol, drugs, and gambling for empty searches of love. We take, take, and take without replenishing. The consequences for this are too high.
I see kids who want and want, while the parents give and give. There is no reciprocity in the relationship, and the kids learn to only take in a relationship, and when only one person gives, the relationship is doomed for destruction. A relationship is exactly that – the sharing and collaborating that happens between beings. We have nurtured a sense of self-preservation that is deeply connected to this idea of taking.
If we don’t get what we want we will cease to exist. I see couples become trapped in very warped and myopic perspectives, usually self-centered, of whose needs are not being met. I was that person. I saw my relationship through a lens of me vs. him, instead of a lens of compromise and understanding. For a long time, I could not see that we are part of a whole that can only exist in harmony if the good of the individual is contained in the good of all. All I wanted was to get what I needed, without focusing on the giving part, which I’ve come to learn is so much more fulfilling than the getting.
I see people taking from the earth more than it can give. Exhausting its natural resources, mutilating it’s mountains and forests, poisoning the air, water and land with bombs of hate and chemicals of greed, and bulldozing its soul to make way for concrete and metal. I see trash cans filled with plastic bottles, disposable cups, plastic forks, and Styrofoam containers. I see shopping bags perusing through malls in search of items that will bring them a sense of achievement and joy. I see cars mistaking their monetary value with their self-worth.
This idea of taking has created a sense of separation and isolation among us. We see ourselves as competitors trying to survive in a dog-eat-dog world. Competition nurtures feelings of fear, greed, jealousy, anger, and hate – emotions that are part of a self-destructing force. “I must get it.” When you take and take and take, the only thing that is left is destruction. The absence of balance always leads to destruction. Just take a look at the theory of equilibrium. The world’s DNA is based on relationships, on this innate biological rhythm of collaboration, sharing, and democracy. You must give in order to take, and some things should never be taken.
My personal legacy first began when I created Carmen. But it’s not her physical attributes that are my legacy, it’s the incredible human being I was a part of shaping. Her passion, compassion, love, and deep sense of social justice are already making a mark on the world. My second legacy is having loved every student I have come in contact with. I have no control over their personal circumstances; I can’t take their pain away; most of the time I have no control over the severely failing education system they inhabit; But what I do have control over, is how much I can love them every time they walk through the door. My third legacy is one that I am exploring at this moment, writing. I wrote an autobiographical incident twelve years ago. My professor said it was a beautifully written piece, and suggested I should try to publish it. I was of course smitten. I never wrote again, that is until two years ago when I came together with three other friends who wanted to find a space to explore and create. Writing became cathartic for me, and I have not been able to stop ever since. I want writing like I want my first cup of coffee in the morning or the way I want to flirt with my husband inconspicuously in public. I need writing the way I need to breathe and love. When I write (create) I feel an immense sense of peace and joy overwhelming my heart. I feel my heart opening into spaces I never knew existed. And sometimes I can touch my soul.
So what does it mean to leave a personal legacy? It means to find what you are passionate about and give it all your love. It means to create some-things beautiful that will forever be woven into the fabric of the world. It means to tell your story and put it out into the universe so it can become a part of what has always been. It means to release your soul into the universe so that you can understand that it is not just a part of you, but it is part of something much more overwhelmingly beautiful.
I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.