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On the news last month, teachers were interviewed about the walk-out in Los Angeles. “We’re striking!” one woman said. And I said back to the screen, “Wow. Conceited much?” 🙂 I jest, of course, and don’t mean to make light of this real problem. Teachers shouldn’t have to go without a raise for ten years. Or teach to a classroom of fifty students. Teachers should be treated like gold. And paid the same way! Still, levity always finds its way into our lives, and I’d like to propose that comic relief should be taught in schools as well.

There’s so much pressure on kids today. They’re mandated by law to go to a particular public school. All day long, at home and at school, every adult they see is their boss. And of course, as the law of the jungle says, every student in a higher grade is, too.

I think that comedy, in the right doses — and with only modest levels of snark — can be a form of communication, as well as a form of therapy. Maybe it should actually be part of the curriculum.

“I saw this sign posted once; it said, ‘Blasting Zone Ahead.’ Wow. Shouldn’t that read, ‘Road Closed’?” This joke is from one of my favorite comedians, Brian Regan.  

Telling a joke — and having it land — is both an art and a science. Maybe it can be quantified. Or maybe it can’t. Then it would also be philosophy. Comedy could also help with public speaking and socialization. And it’s the kind of homework students wouldn’t mind doing. In closing, here’s an oldie but a goodie: What did the Zen Buddhist say to the hot dog vendor? Make me one with everything. Ba-dum-bum. Good night! We’re here all week!

The other night in a dream, someone told me, “You can either have a project …or be the project.”

In other words, always be doing something constructive with your life or somebody will come along, make you their project and try to “fix” you.

In the news today, a New Jersey public school principal was transferred after a misspelled sign in front of the school went viral. A custodian had changed the sign at an entrance not used by staff, so no one noticed it for a week.

It was startling to see such a sign in front of a school, but the venomous reaction to it really surprised me. Ironically, people making comments on the article seemed unaware of their own spelling errors. One man wrote that he was “dumfounded” by the mistake.

Another pointed out that she had seen such errors as well on the “bulleting board” at her son’s school. She said this was “indicitive” of the crisis in the educational system in general. More than one commenter said it really wasn’t the “principle’s” fault, but the “parens.”

Seems like we always want to make the other person our project.

Instead of throwing stones, maybe someone could offer to help the custodian with reading comprehension. Everyone wants to assign blame but nobody has anything helpful to say. Isn’t it possible to reach out with compassion instead? That would be a great project for the commenters to take on.

My goal for the new year is to always have a productive, constructive project. That way, nobody will take it upon themselves to make me their project. Here’s wishing you all a happy, healthy, joyful new year with positive projects and prayers aplenty!

Flipping through channels on the t.v. the other day, I happened upon a show on a local channel called “The Daily Helpline.” The synopsis said, “topics include quarter-life crises; dealing with the murder of a boyfriend; and preparing for a job interview.”

Well!  There’s a diverse palette for you. First off, I never knew there was such a thing as a “quarter-life crisis.”

And then to put, “dealing with the murder of a boyfriend” right next to “preparing for a job interview”?

I thought, what kind of a world are young people coming into, after all?  I mean, just watching this show, who the heck would sign up for this life anyway?

It’s enough to make you think there’s no hope on earth at all.

It made me wonder if it’s possible to impart hope to our kids, to the people we meet.  To the world at large. After all, we have faith in God, and it gives us the fuel we need to keep going. But some of the people we meet have been disillusioned by religion. How can we break off a little piece of the bread of life without being obnoxious?

One of my favorite teachers was Mr. Moffett, a former Jesuit priest with a wicked sense of humor. He allowed us to ponder weighty questions and speak freely, while he remained light-spirited and kind-hearted. Some of my earliest attempts at writing fiction were not very good, but he critiqued them for me on his own time, and was the first person ever to encourage me to become a writer.

Without my realizing it, this teacher showed me what hope looks like. He was truly in the world but not of it. He had so much to deal with – the bureaucracy of the public school system, unruly students, parents who were not happy with their kids’ grades – but he knew that those small moments of humor, and encouraging us to pursue our dreams, would inspire us and gave us hope for the future. And hope really is what makes life worth living. Now, that was a lesson worth learning.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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