My older daughter is in a special needs class for third grade, and yesterday, I had the annual meeting with her teacher and the vice-principal to discuss what her goals are for the upcoming year. It’s a meeting that’s required by LAUSD, and it went very well in terms of how my daughter is progressing in her class. But one thing came up – some of the other students in her class are having some emotional issues that make everything hard for everyone, including them, poor kids. They have autism or ADHD or (like mine) epilepsy, and just find the world to be a difficult place to navigate sometimes – and that’s when the kicking and screaming and flailing in frustration starts.
So I suggested meditation (my daily practice has helped me immensely, and my daughters sometimes do it, too), and then remembered a Facebook post I saw recently of a scripted 5-minute meditation designed for classroom use, and offered it to the teacher. When I posted that I was sending it to my child’s special needs class on my “friend” ‘s page, he offered to even come to the school and lead the session himself. Couldn’t be a nicer, more selfless guy.
Which just hits me in a funny place, a place that makes me smile a little and shake my head at the wonders of this world. Because I used to hate this guy. Really hate him. In seventh grade, he was one of the popular kids (the sidekick one, if you know what I mean) that actually helped make my life hell. I was a quirky nerd who didn’t care much what anyone thought of me, but I did care when three of my best friends stopped talking to me and joined that other group, the popular kids group. Those kids just seemed like people from another planet, shallow and mean. I remember this guy mostly as the “hairy” one, the kid who had to start shaving in eighth grade.
And that pretty much lasted all through high school. I never talked to them, but they were always there. They were always involved in school government, in the sports teams. I stuck to the theater class and the speech team, skipped pretty much every sports event (until I started dating a volleyball/basketball player, but that’s another story), and just concentrated on keeping my straight A average. Then in eleventh grade, scandal struck – turns out that all the popular kids had the brilliant idea of cheating their way through school. It was a huge, pervasive cheating ring, and I don’t think he was one of the ringleaders (hard to remember now), but I know that he was definitely part of that crowd. Definitely not my crowd.
But a few months ago, one of the many people I’m still in touch with on Facebook posted a TED talk – this guy leading a meditation session. And now he’s centered, and selfless, and bringing the joy and peace of meditation to any and all people (including prisoners, even) who need it. It just blew me away how twenty years have changed this man. That he’s now someone who I admire, and can see all the ways in which we’re alike. And I wonder, was that always there, and was I just was too shallow and mean myself back then to see it?
Still, whether it’s his evolution or mine, I think it’s progress.