Take It Personally
A month ago I was back home visiting with family in Illinois. I spent time golfing with my Grandma, hanging out at Wellbuilt Equipment, the family business, and taking a trip down memory lane in Michigan. As I drove through the shadows of the tree canopy overhanging the road, I could smell the lake, feel the tickle of minnows swimming around my toes, the sensation of sun on my skin, and feel the gentle lull of swinging in a hammock. I was at peace though I hadn’t fully arrived to my destination. It was personal. As I pulled into the driveway at the Lake, I opened the windows, oldies on the radio. My mind was empty, yet full. The next morning we visited Shipshewana and drove to the Orchard. The giant metal slide of my childhood was glistening in the sun as we pulled up and I could feel it. The thrill of climbing to the top of the ladder; the anticipation of the rush of air and pure exhilaration combined with the knowledge of the heat radiating off the slide. It was exhilarating, it was risky… it was freedom. That evening we drove to Frankie’s Restaurant and as we pulled up I could see the caboose. I could see the inside of the restaurant, hear my Grandma’s voice, feel the pull of the vinyl cover on my skin when I got off the chair. When we left the restaurant we decided to drive through the campground, where I spent my summer weekends as a little girl. Our camper had been long moved off the lot, but it was still so real. My mind took me to the large sandbox we flooded to our hearts content with the hose, no permission necessary. The sting of Bactine as I sat on my Dad’s lap, scraped leg from the kickstand of the bike that had scraped my skin as it tipped over in the shed; my Mom graciously accepting the role of the “bad guy” as she sprayed the stinging antiseptic on my leg, Smurf cartoons playing in the background on the TV. I could smell the Bactine as if it were happening in that moment. It was real. It was personal.
“Don’t take it personally”. Recently I’ve been struggling with taking things personally regarding Here We Grow and our learning community. “Don’t take it personally, but…” followed by an opinion, a thought, a statement, a judgment. Because let’s be real for a moment. When you prelude a sentence with the phrase “Don’t take it personally”, you’re trying to shield yourself from the truth; the truth that what you are about to say might be offensive or real to the other person.
Yesterday I attended the 1st Midwest Play Conference, and I took it personally. Lisa Murphy, author, defender of play, and my Ooey Gooey heroine, was the Keynote Speaker. Her keynote was entitled “What if today was their only day?” She spoke of Miss Mary’s Nursery School and her memories of her first day with Miss Mary and the personal touches and freedom to explore. And then she asked us all a question: “Why do you do what you do every day?” She shared the three paths that lead people to the profession of education and I held back tears. I took it personally, because it is. From the giant hole, to children running barefoot through the grass to the hammocks, it is personal. I spent my childhood days digging holes in red Michigan sand, running barefoot through the grass, playing house on the front porch with all of my neighbors, and taking risks on hot metal playground slides. Sure there were bumps, bruises, and Bactine. It’s not about getting hurt; it’s about recovering. Life will throw you kickstands, sand, and radiating heat off a slide. But the more trips down the slide you take, you learn that if you put your knees up, tuck your feet into your bottom and lean back, you don’t feel the heat of the metal, just the pure exhilaration as you make it to the bottom and climb back to the top. You live your passion even through the bumps and Bactine.
My passion is creating, and inspiring others to create environments, where children can explore freely, take risks, and form friendships. A place where staff are more than just a name on the payroll list but rather a place where they are viewed as people who can live their journey as part of a team. And wouldn’t it be great if our children remembered the day they dug a hole so deep they could reach Waterville for lunch with a friend’s Dad on the farm, or when they slept outside under the shade of the trees. Wouldn’t it be great… if their childhood was personal?