In the past few weeks I lost two significant things that I had previously thought were impossible to live without: my voice and the contacts on my phone. Instead, they proved more valuable in their absence than in their presence.
The first to go was my voice. It happened with little warning, and little time to prepare. I woke up one morning and realized I couldn’t talk, or even whisper. I am a teacher. This makes things complicated. Fortunately, my students can be relatively helpful and independent, so, with the help of a portable dry-erase board and improvised sign language, I showed a few kids the lesson and had them teach. They were delighted! In fact, they were more attentive than ever before because they actually wanted to know what I was trying to say and worked together to understand my coded communication. I felt like I had the rare opportunity to step outside of myself and see the influence my presence has had on people. How would they respond to me when I could give little feedback to their words and actions?
I was blessed that it was a rewarding discovery. I heard my students using the quips and phrases I always say, and saw them using my methods and mannerisms when teaching. I frequently caught conversations beginning with, “Miss T said…” They know my routine and tried to follow it as closely as possible. I also discovered how much pressure there is to respond in verbal form to questions and situations, and what a relief it is to not actually have to say anything! As useful as words are, they can really get in the way of life sometimes.
In just a short time after the retrieval of my voice, my phone went on the blink and crashed before I could have my contacts transferred to the new phone. Initially I was devastated! I did not know how many contacts I actually had, nor who all of them were. My mind raced with all the people I would lose touch with if I didn’t have their numbers. But since there was no getting around the situation, I simply had to deal with it. I used e-mail and Facebook to spread the word and then decided to sit back, relax, and see who sincerely wanted to stay in touch with me. And then, believe it or not, the fun began! My phone lit up with texts and voicemail, as people made sure that I would not lose touch. I deliberately took new pictures and filmed updated videos and realized that a fresh start is not a bad thing.
It’s not uncommon for humans to get stuck in ruts. We eat pre-cooked frozen meals, buy pre-paid phone cards, teach pre-made lessons, follow set routines, pray rote prayers and review yesterday’s thoughts and plans. Before too long our lives grow stagnant, our relationships grow stale, and enthusiasm for life fades. How do we expect to impact the world if the vision we had for our own life has atrophied? What does this have to do with a voice and contacts, you ask? The brief leave my voice took showed me that it’s good to shake things up a bit and find new ways to teach people. Find the angle from which life has never been previously viewed. The cell phone crash taught me the importance of taking stock of my priorities and to not let dust settle on the relationships in my life. Keep track of the ones that matter and be willing to let go of the ones that only serve to drain my energy.
Seize the unexpected moments and learn from them.