Sunday, February 6, 2011

To Be The Exception

Something happened when we first arrived here in DC that I've been thinking a lot about lately. It wasn't anything really big, but something that still made me take a minute and think. We were going on tours of all the schools we were going to be working with. At one point we went on a tour of Duke Ellington High School (a performing arts school) where they had just performed the show Dream Girls. On a wall near the front of the school was a big sign that said,

"What's Your Dream?"

The kids had written all kinds of answers on pieces of paper and stuck them up to the wall. Most were fairly detailed and lengthy. Some talked about graduation, some about which college they wanted to go to, some mentioned Broadway. But there was one that stuck out to me. All it said was,

"To Be The Exception."

I've been thinking a lot about that lately. On several levels. First, on the kids' level. For many of them, academic success IS being the exception. At my school, so many of my kids have rough home lives and parents that are not involved in the least. For them to rise above that is to be the exception. For us, it was expected to do well in school. For many of them, it's not. I'm not sure where I'm going with this. I guess just to say that I never realized how much harder it must be for them to try when they know that if they fail, no one will care. It makes me realize how little patience I've had with some of them since I got here, even when I tried not to let it show. My mindset wasn't in the right place. More than someone constantly getting after them or disciplining them, they need someone to show that they care if they succeed. It's a trickier road and may take awhile to earn that trust, but that's going to motivate them to be the exception way more than being yelled at all the time.

This phrase also made me think of how often I push myself to be the exception. I feel like I've lived an okay life. But is that because the path to do so was laid out right in front of me? In what areas of my life do I push myself to go beyond what's expected of me and really stretch myself to become the exception? It also made me wonder who in my life has worked to become the exception. My dad is one of those. Growing up, he was surrounded by a very different lifestyle than the one he chooses to live now. And I'll never be able to show enough gratitude for that. My brother-in-law is also the exception. He rose above what teachers initially saw in him to show them how dedicated he was to his future. He is, without a doubt, the most dedicated student I have ever seen and will be a phenomenal doctor because of it. Florina, my Romanian sister, is the exception. Despite her family's struggles, she did her best to make something of herself and now uses that to help her family. She is one of the most selfless people I know. The list goes on and on. Every day, people rise above expectations to become something better. So I guess what I want to say is just that I'm grateful for those people in my life. They inspire me to be something better than what I am. They make me want to be the exception.