First printed Winter 2009, but seems more relevant today

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This image was...interesting, for many reasons.

You’ve heard our economic condition called “the Great Recession,” but I wonder if the Greatest Generation gets offended by our being presumptuous and self-indulgent enough to compare today’s economy to what they endured. Are you wearing cardboard in the soles of your shoes?

I write much about thriving through crisis, and I think one way is to realize how soft our lives today are. But there are many other ways to brighten this darkest part of the year.

First, remember you’re probably not busy. Telling people you’re busy might offend people who are.

How do you know if you’re busy? If you’re caring for a child with Down syndrome or a housebound parent, you’re busy. If you can watch TV for an hour, you’re not. So if you’re not, your life is better than you thought.

When I had four children under age 4, I felt I was serving a life sentence. I felt better when I learned you can be on the mountaintop for one facet of life but in the valley for another—for example, maybe you’re jobless, but your relationships are good.

No experiences go to waste unless they go unexamined. The longer I’m a teacher and parent, the more I realize life isn’t linear, events sequential. Rather, events are linked by memory and meaning.

A new professor recently approached me about her anxiety to guide each student to that “aha!” moment. I told her not to stress—she couldn’t maintain that anxiety for decades.

“You’re not just your students’ teacher for a semester,” I said. “You’ll be teaching them the rest of their lives.”

I remember reading Wordsworth’s poem “Tintern Abbey” when I was 20, but I didn’t get it until I was 30, when it moved me to tears. But how wrong Wordsworth was—passion only gains momentum with wisdom. Time without journey is meaningless.

Back to that new professor. Show the students their goal, what you want them to learn, I said. Show them a few ways to get there. Tell them to keep their minds open that other avenues might exist. Do your best, but realize only the students can journey to that truth.

Journeys are encoded into many religions. The three wise men journeyed to Jesus. Muslims undertake Hajj to Mecca.

Journeys aren’t supposed to be easy. If they were, the three wise men wouldn’t have followed a star; they would’ve teleported to Jesus–nothing resonant about that.

Parents, don’t despair with your children; undertake your journey with them at peace. Teachers, realize you may only teach your students one lesson—but it may be the one lesson they really need.

Amidst these holidays, may your journey begin.

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About Rebecca Bailey

* Columnist, The Times of Northwest Indiana, for three years. * Professor for twelve years. * Mom of four teeny kids. * Voted "Most Dramatic," Castle Junior High School eighth grade, 1984. * Failed to diaper her first child before he projectile-pooped on the curtains. * Accidentally splattered her white Jack Russell Terrier with her red hair dye, which did not come out.

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