Today while I was riding the bus to work and as we approached Columbia University I heard someone crying. It was a young man of about eighteen or nineteen years old speaking to a friend about how stressed he was with all of the expectations that his parents were laying on his shoulders. With his breath catching in his throat he sobbed that he didn’t know what to do. I’m sure that this young man was very bright or he wouldn’t be a student at Columbia, and yet, he was falling apart. The counselor in me was tempted to intervene, but it looked like his friend had things well in hand offering sound suggestions and support.
As I reflected on this scene the word balance came to mind. In our effort to be the best, the brightest, the wealthiest, the super achiever “racing to the top” are we sacrificing something of the human spirit? In the push to excel in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) subjects many schools eliminated the arts and music from their schedules. I’m happy to see that some schools are now adding an A into the STEM subjects using the acronym STEAM, returning art and music back into the mix.
It’s amazing to see what students are capable of producing and being when there is balance in their lives. Watch young children play and create and use their imaginations using nothing more than a cardboard refrigerator box. Watch them dance to the rhythms of music with abandon and without self consciousness. Listen to children sing off key but with a loud strong voice.
I hope the young man on the bus can regain some of the childlike joy that I’m sure he once had. We educators need to take note and help temper the stress of school by offering opportunities for joy, by blending the singleness of achievement with group work, by providing opportunities for all types of gifts to shine.
I love the verses in Matthew 6:25-33: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry…but strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Now that’s perfection!