From the moment that we are born, we are taught invaluable lessons, lessons that many of our teachers–parents, mentors, siblings, etc.–hope will last us throughout our lifetimes and ones that will keep us forging confidently through all that Real Life has to throw our way.
And through it all, the onus of the learning has always been on us, the learners. If we learned the material well, we not only passed the test associated with the material with “flying colors,” but that knowledge then became uniquely ours, not just our teachers’.
Unfortunately, we, as students and as teachers, often don’t know how well those lessons have taken root until those very lessons are put to the test.
At times, those tests come in small “little bumps in the road” that prove to be no challenge for us while at other times, they rush upon us in torrential waves of abrasive and teeth-jarring onslaughts of heartache, fear, anxiety…and sometimes all three in addition to a slew of other less-than-pleasant emotions.
Two weeks ago, I received a heartbreaking phone call from a student of mine. He rarely calls me on the phone, so when his number popped up on my caller ID, I was a bit surprised.
Imagine my greater surprise when I heard the usually stoic and laid-back student sobbing into the phone, completely at his wits’ end and barely able to string together a coherent sentence.
In those first few minutes, a myriad of thoughts raced through my mind as I thought of the “right” words to say, but the two most prominent ones that I remember were “Thank God, he feels close enough to me to call me when he’s hurting” and “How will this affect him?”
You see, just the previous week, I had taught this student what I call “The 3 P’s.”
These three P’s stand for “People,” “Possessions,” and “Positions.” At any given time, Real Life will try to shake us and derail us via these three P’s. Let me explain what I mean:
1. People: There will come times when the people in our lives will be the source of great anguish. We may mourn their deaths. We may be cut to the quick because they no longer desire to be an active part of our lives. Or perhaps, they’ve betrayed us, leaving us reeling from that violation of trust.
2. Possessions: The material things that we cherish may be taken away from us or kept away from us.
3. Position: The job, promotion, college, graduate school, etc. that we so earnestly wished for may be given to someone else while we stand there in dumbfounded shock and/or anger.
These are just a handful of generalized scenarios, but I never imagined when I taught this lesson two weeks ago that one of my students would have to deal with the “Possessions” so quickly…and in such extreme circumstances.
For this student, material possessions are not a point of weakness. If anything, he’s always willing to share what he has with others, lives a spartan lifestyle, and doesn’t put too much value on his possessions.
That Friday night, the lesson that I had taught him was tested when he and his parents walked into an emptied, recently burglarized home…
When he rushed into his bedroom, it was to discover that his new Christmas gift–a touchscreen laptop–was gone. And this boy had just received this after using a laptop that was over 10 years old for the bulk of his teenage years. Add to that the fact that he had just spent the better part of January and February happily downloading all of his favorite anime and comics in anticipation of future leisure viewing and reading as well as customizing the laptop to his preference…the loss of such a device can pack quite a devastating punch.
His other electronic devices? Nowhere to be found.
But it wasn’t the loss of the electronic things that hit him the most. The culprits had somehow dug through all of his stuff and discovered his personal security box where he kept all of his most cherished valuables and keepsakes…including his personal life savings.
How does one respond to such a devastating loss?
More than the loss of possessions, though, I think it was the utter lack of protection from the invasion that shook him the most. If one can’t feel safe and protected in one’s own home–one’s private inner sanctum–then where can one find refuge and peace from the harsh Real World?
In the face of my student’s raw shock, fear, and vulnerability, I did what I could to remind him of the positives: his family, which could not be replaced, was safe. No one had been hurt. Possessions can be replaced. He and his parents could not.
They were safe.
At that reminder, he started to calm down, and his rational mind started to kick in again. But when I then mentioned how I thanked the Lord that he was safe, the expected and feared response came. As much as I value his honesty, his comment that he didn’t think he wanted to believe in God right now made me ache for this young man. You see, he had just started to believe.
And there it was. The test.
In the two weeks since this phone call, I’ve been watching and praying for this student. He has such a sweet heart and a willingness to help others that each time I interact with him, I feel privileged to mentor him. But this recent test may be too tough for him…when he had just started to believe in a greater power than himself.
As this student struggles through this challenge, I find myself reflecting on how many of my foundational life lessons that I have truly learned. Thus far, I’ve been fortunate that the lesson of the 3 P’s were planted firmly for me so that no matter what difficulties I faced, my faith and my hope hadn’t been dismantled. But who is to say that these will stand firmly in future tests?
I’m starting to dig deeper into my lessons in preparation for future onslaughts. Both as a student and as a teacher.
Why, you ask?
Because I’ve seen my fair share of friends, students, mentors, etc. who were not as fortunate, and who is to say that I will pass through life unscathed if I am complacent about my life lessons? These dear friends, former students, and mentors, under the ponderous burden of Real Life, buckled under its pressure and tossed some of their foundational life lessons right out the proverbial speeding car window…to some very tragic consequences.
It’s a sobering thought to realize 1) that some of my students may not pass their life tests because the lessons they learned weren’t fully digested enough and 2) that I, too, may not remember some of these essential life lessons from my teachers.
I don’t know about you, but as a student and as a teacher, I’ve always prided myself in learning my lessons well and, hopefully, in applying them. My recent experience with my student reminds me of the importance of remembering and, more importantly, of applying these foundational life lessons. Otherwise, we run the risk of getting smooshed by the harsh mean Real World.
For those who dislike studying–don’t we all?–I leave you with a word of advice that my father once told me when I was starting to buckle under the pressures of my academic studies. I had commented that studying doesn’t come easily for me the way it does for him; after all, he likes studying.
At this ludicrous comment, my father gave me a pitying look and then sagely replied that no one likes to study, not when that student could be doing more fun things like watch Korean drama, read a fun book, or…sleep. Heh, remember how sleep was such a precious commodity as high school and college students?
He then told me that studying can sometimes to be the loneliest thing a human being can do…because it has to be done individually and because it’s a constant struggle and fight with oneself.
And the list goes one, but those are qualities that a student learns to exercise in spades in order to master his or her lessons.
So these foundational life lessons? They, too, must be learned individually by the student and in constant denial of self to continue to apply what one has learned from one’s trusted teachers.
I know that there is a growing number of young Twinkles in our community. My hope and charge to you is that you take the time and make the effort to learn well your foundational life lessons. The learning process may not be the most pleasant, but the rock solid arsenal you’ll have to withstand the onslaught of attacks from the mean Real World will make the effort worthwhile.
And if all else fails, you can envision yourself in the romantic light of being an honorable scholar like Lee Sun Joon (aka Micky Yoo Chun). 😉
Fighting! Twinkles of all ages! May we cling to the foundational life lessons that our parents and other teachers worked so hard to teach us! I don’t know about you all, but I’d like for every one of my Twinkling friends to be able to confidently weather any storm Real Life throws her or his way. *pumps fist*