America’s children will spend between 900 and 1,000 hours each year in the classroom. By graduation time, students will have amassed 14,256 hours of knowledge (excluding kindergarten and preschool years). Teachers work tirelessly to impart knowledge through textbooks, lectures and activities within those four walls – with the hope of launching enthusiastic contributors into our society.
The world’s strongest librarian says, “It would seem that experience has the edge over book learning. [But experience] loses its value unless built on a solid foundation, one that has been built brick by brick through school and college,” she continued. Book learning and experiential learning are too often seen as separate, each with a distinct season of application.
Instead, what if we embraced these types of learning in simultaneous fashion? Why not give students ample opportunity in both types of learning, throughout their school years? Therein lies a dream of mine. Creating books to help children (and adults) understand life’s most difficult journeys is quite rewarding. It is a privilege to be given opportunity to speak through words on a page and whimsical little characters. Yet, getting a message beyond the pages of a book takes a whole other level of concerted action.
From the time I entered that 2nd grade classroom for a reading of When Your Teacher Has Cancer, a seed was planted. Asking them, “How many of you have known someone with cancer” every single hand was raised. Their response has been emulated by every group, with every book — whether talking about cancer, deployment or Alzheimer’s. Everyone knows someone who is going through it. You see, none of us will get through this life without a challenging sense of it. We learn and grow through the good and bad of it, whatever it is, and whether we like it or not.
There are serious short-falls when our noses (and eyes) remain within the pages of a book. Learning without action is akin to silence. The world needs people to wear their hearts on their sleeves — rolled up sleeves, ready and able to share love, faith, and hope. The sooner we echo the benefits the richer the soil of compassion becomes, for generations to come. Therein, lies the heart of that dream of mine.
It began with the Stocking Project, and then, the neighborhood memory cafe. Both are advocacy initiatives to promote quality of life for people going through difficult journeys while also encouraging growth in the arts. The gift of music is major in both, right alongside love, faith, and hope. We have rolled up our sleeves and exposed our hearts through seven seasons, and now we’re taking the message beyond the pages of our books to a whole other level.
The vessel for my dream comes through student volunteerism. They will share their gifts in the arts and we (Hope Matters) will award them community service hours. Eligibility for “bright futures scholarships” for college requires them to volunteer within their Florida community. It is a win-win. From volunteering onsite at the places we host neighborhood memory cafes to donating works of art at next year’s “Senior Prom”, there is opportunity for them to take their noses out of book learning and into world learning.
The next generation of precious caregivers … or care partners, as I like to say … is right before our eyes! How can we help them prepare? How can we shine a light of hope instead of despair? The world is full of strife. But the world is also full of heart-vested souls eager to share God’s promise of a future and a hope. Adults have the awesome responsibility of showing children how it is to be dealt with, no matter how difficult it may be. Book learning and experiential learning are not meant to be separate. In fact they can serve jointly, in dozens of seasons, beyond the four walls of a classroom.
My message was driven home (to my own heart) in an email I received yesterday. In the words of a local high school activities director, “I have to tell you the kids are VERY excited … they just kept saying awww! … the seniors appreciate feeling they have a purpose, are appreciated, and competent!!”
Generational gaps exist where bridges have not been built. This is the season to build more bridges. The time has come to fulfill that dream of mine. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.