Living lifelong human care, development, education, learning and service for all.
ONE SCHOOL: “HOW WONDERFUL LIFE IS WHILE YOU’RE IN THE WORLD”
The seed of one school was planted in my heart in August 2012. How does one know for sure that a mission, a plan, a calling is so deep and right, that one cannot shake it and one can only work towards its completion. I was in agony for weeks. I suppose it has been years, specifically 5 years, since the birth of Keith in August 2007, asking this one simple question – where is he to go? Where is he going to get that education environment where he is not discriminated, where he is not labeled, where he is not held back, and where there is no poverty of expectations, meaning where he is challenged and expected to strive for his highest potential and contribution as a rightful and able human being?
Where? And on his 5th birthday in August 2012, we were truly at this crossroads in our decision for his elementary schooling. He could be tested for his IQ and most likely be placed in a completely segregated school which is not even governed by the state’s Ministry of Education but a charitable organization that is government supported. Or he could join the crowd of elite and be enrolled in an international school that offers integrated schooling; however, he would still be assessed by a team of therapists and educational psychologists. Why is it that a child’s education that should be a child’s birthright has become such a fearful or tentative experience for adults who are supposed to show the child the wonderful world that we live in. How, from the beginning is the relationship going to be formed with a community, a school, that already distances the child and the parents and their families, with all the testing and screening?
And then there is also the matter of the fees. A child with special needs gets slapped on extra bills. Extra to the degree so ridiculous that again the signal is – you cost us money, you are a burden, you are extra trouble and be very thankful that we are accepting you and that we are kind enough to accommodate, but really, there’s so much wrong in you that we’ve got to fix that really you know, just be very thankful you’ve got a place? How and why would I as a parent want to choose to belong to this community that begins a journey of love with such deep abandonment?
Then came a very realistic question. Can I, the parent, build this school, this enabling environment of support, learning and empowerment for my child, 24/7. But that is not all. Keith still needs to belong to a community; otherwise, how is he going to learn to be and become in community. Especially in his elementary school years where his inner sense of self will be very much be influenced by his peers. And it has to be a community that is representative of the population that is a microcosm of society and culture that he was birthed into; otherwise, we are just running away and removing him from society even more. No, we don’t want to run away anymore. Keith has great work to fulfill in his life. He is here to learn and contribute in every way that he is, to a better humanity and a better world. The sooner he starts being in community, the sooner and the more he belongs and finds a place in the world to apply himself positively.
And as I pondered deeply, asked many difficult questions, asked many truthful questions, I came down to this one question again – Can I do it? Do I have the capacity to do it? To rise to this call? To grow and learn with others and see my own impatience in perspective and grow through that, and to have the flexibility and the malleability that is required to adapt and grow structures and communities. I again went into these moments of insecurity, being unsure, being afraid. Again, that self-defeating word appeared, being afraid.
Afraid of what, my friends asked me. Of failure, I said, but it wasn’t true, it was being afraid of being hurt again, of disappointments, of abandonment or perceived abandonment. Can I stand this series of no,no,no,no,no in my face every day? Can I in my most tired moments and most helpless and vulnerable moments withstand the negativities of disbelief. Of this turning of heads away from you, or of the disdain or the lack of interest of this vision, as often this is just perceived as one crazy and impossible mother’s longing and denial of the state of her disabled child. And of people telling you, it’s you who are off the mark – for being so idealist, for being that perfectionist, that life isn’t this way – that life is just about settling and accepting.
Well, I refuse to accept. I refuse to accept because the better is so possible. How can we run away from the beautiful and accept living in agony. No, I refuse to be defeated. And then, one morning, I woke up, and I rose. So what if everyone around me does not believe, cannot believe, don’t want to believe that one school is possible for all children, and that systemically, the perception of education and schools that we as a culture have organized to date, has missed the mark. And that, I am, the one who is on the mark, though so alone. So terribly alone.
But in that awakening, I suddenly received the full joy of the hope because living a step closer to that dream, to that vision, tells me that I am alive. And that I still have courage and daring left, that I am living an experience of moral courage, for if it’s all laid out on a platter, where then is the experience of truly activating our entire beings to figure, to analyse challenges, barriers and then to create truly loving, peaceful, beautiful possibilities and then, realities? And so, one school is born, truly birthed, in my heart and in the lives of my children and family, and suddenly, I am free again.
Freedom. I was mulling on this word for this whole season. And suddenly, I soar. And the soaring is not in building this whole community, this whole building, this whole big thing, but it was down to one morning. A morning, and every day, that we live in the spirit of one school and walking towards this big manifestation of the vision. In living in every moment, in every engagement, in every day, and just simply living that, I am already living one school.
So, my dear parents, school administrators, educators, and anyone who cares for the welfare of children, ask yourself, are you living one school every day, now and not tomorrow. If we can’t live it now, there won’t be a tomorrow that we hope to see and be part of.
And what is this one school? It is a school, a community that does not discriminate, is not afraid, and simply loves each child and each other to bits, to the fullest, and would do anything and everything, to build and hold this wonderful environment and world for our children and for ourselves to discover deeply and affectionately ourselves, our earth and our humanity. And that we stop the vicious cycle of teaching our children to divide, to discriminate, to value human beings based on worth and ability, but we model and receive from our children to embrace frailty and vulnerability and how to love, support and empower this dynamism of growth and life that is a dance of frailty and strength. However the physical environment shapes and forms itself to enable this dance, is secondary. It is the spirit of one school that keeps one school together and going. So material resources, large compounds, brick and steel buildings dotted with people running about within them, do not constitute one school if there is no true understanding and living of one love.
One school is a moment to moment that lives unconditional love, and I quote Elton John: How Wonderful Life is While You’re in the World. One school is about celebrating each of our being in the world in a life journey of learning and maturing.
And with that, I am no longer afraid that Keith has nowhere to go, that he has no elementary school that loves and knows who he is. I have found the belief, the faith, the deep knowing that I can do it, that I can grow in emotional maturity for him, and that I will cultivate the fortitude to wait and endure, that I will re-find the discipline to do the work in any way for the realisation of this enabling and learning elementary schooling environment, and I will rise every day to be the mom who will receive, find, create, build the necessary learning environments, and communities, in an enjoyable and loving manner without bitterness, frustration and resentment, and that others will too, because, I believe, and there will come a day when others too will believe and recognise that we are already so doing it. And the next step is just a next step and not a gulf of irreconcilable divide, but simply a pulse between two heart beats that can learn to dance and jive together, synchronously or asynchronously, and we live and celebrate jazz.
Keith already belongs in my heart, in his Daddy’s heart, his sister’s heart, his grandparents’ hearts, his aunts’ and uncles’ hearts, his cousins’ hearts, his therapists’ hearts, his teachers’ hearts, his friends’ hearts, our extended families’ hearts, our family friends’ hearts – and us in his heart – he is already our whole world, and we are already his whole world. What we need to do then is to keep extending this world of hearts into a true community, with as large a mix of culture and communities, so that life for him and for us, is truly in celebration of diversity, in true knowing, love, support and empowerment, and living engagements that are deep and complete experiences of moral courage, peace, love and joy. To truly receive the seed of one school is when we are able to participate in the sorrow of others, however momentary or however long, without bolting, without being afraid, and without doubting that there will come a time, a moment, however momentary or however long, when that sorrow will turn into joy, when a growth will unfold, and to endure and celebrate these pulses of heart beats, these moments, in complete faith and trust with full understanding that the cycle will churn again and again in the glorious cycle of growth and life, and living. And we endure, celebrate, endure, celebrate, endure celebrate and do a jazz of pulsing heartbeats with full gusto of living a life fully and completely, with others, in love, singing: “How Wonderful Life is While You’re in the World”.