All of us know, at least in an abstract sort of way, that our life's trajectory can change in a moment. We march along with a compelling mix of poignant and prosaic experiences and challenges, perhaps with a false sense of security that what we have planned for the near and long term will, indeed, come to fruition. Alas, as so many of us discover, the best laid plans can be dashed in a heartbeat. The accident no one saw coming. The job that ends abruptly. The relationship that sours because of one impertinent, poorly timed comment. Or the harrowing medical crisis.
Every life has its share of stumbles and false starts. The dashed dreams. Accidents. Faltering relationships. Health crises. The enduring challenge for all of us, it seems, is to do our best to cope with adversity when it rears its unbidden head.
So many of us yearn for world peace, the end of poverty and homelessness, and universal health care. This is the stuff of hopeful dreams, and many of us spend our days doing what we can to move closer to these ideals. Of course, political obstacles, funding shortfalls, and bureaucratic challenges often stymie our best efforts. But along with our noble pursuits, it seems so important to remember that meaningful change in our world also occurs incrementally, one small step at a time.
Empathy. It's such a simple word, only seven letters long. But the concept is so complex. Is it really possible to truly understand and appreciate another human being's experience? Is the expression "I know what you're going through" truly meaningful? Well, even if it's not, isn't it important to do what we can to appreciate other people's experiences, especially when they suffer?
Imagine yourself as a high school English teacher trying to inspire your students to grapple with the complex nuances embedded in Shakespearean literature. Not an easy task, you may be thinking. But as many of us have come to know and appreciate, often decades post-high school, Shakespeare is chock full of profound insights and life lessons, if only we have the patience and persistence to delve into the Bard’s writings. In this encore essay we hear how English teacher Chris McEnroe brings Shakespeare into his own life, along with those of his students.
Every life has its share of crises—of course, we hope few in number with lots and lots of time in between. No one wants it, but some relationships crash to a halt. Jobs we cherish evaporate. Physicians share dire diagnoses and prognoses we don't want to hear. When these moments come our way, don't all of us hope that we don't have to suffer the trials and tribulations alone, that people – even total strangers – take the time to care about us, take the time to lend a hand? Tim Lemire, certainly thinks so.
How often do you catch yourself caught in life's seemingly relentless frenzy, yearning for some respite, a real pause in the midst of the storm that forms as we race to pick up our children, juggle our complex meeting schedule, catch up on the email and text message fire hose, and chase after those pesky deadlines at work? Sadly, genuinely quiet moments in our lives can seem so elusive and, when we find them, so fleeting.
Human connection. Certainly, it can be so very complicated at times, what with our diverse, sometimes colliding personalities, politics, and predilections. And, yet, often human connection is so basic, so fundamental, so instant.
So many of us discover that as we age, time seems to speed up, even though our clocks tick at the same pace. Haven't all of us heard family and friends exclaim, "Good heavens -- where did the time go?!" or "It seems like only yesterday when my kids were crawling. Now they're getting married!" Indeed, our sense of time does seem to shift as we march through life and accept that passing moments cannot be recovered. The ancient Roman poet Virgil observed, "Time passes irrevocably." And isn't it wonderful when a 13-year-old, Claire Fay, appreciates this so early in her life's journey.
All of us have been caught in the controversial vortex surrounding refugee and immigrant resettlement in the United States. Public policy, court rulings, and executive orders are crisscrossing in whirlwind fashion, as if on a collision course.
All of our lives have defining moments, don't they? Some make us smile: That first date that led to a life-long romance. The compelling book we read that altered our life's path. The chance encounter in a coffee shop that turned out to be step #1 in our satisfying career shift. Of course, other defining moments are not so cheerful: That dreaded phone call that delivered bad news about a loved one's sudden death. The car accident that led to a long, painful stint in the hospital. The unanticipated pink slip instructing us to clean out our desk by noon.
It sounds a little too much like an essay question on a college application: "Please identify a book that has changed your life. Discuss." The truth is, most of us can identify a book that has changed our lives in profound ways.
It's no secret that all manner of recent news headlines, Twitter messages, and social media video posts have been filled with disquieting, often harsh and vicious epithets, rants, and screeds that have ethnic racial, religious, and gender targets.