I find myself enthralled in wonder more these days. Since starting this weekly reflective blog in January it’s sparked a deeper sense of wonder. I’ve found myself more dialed-in on things that would typically be the most miniscule. I’ve learned and grown along this introspective journey.
This is week 11 of 52 of 2023. If this is your first visit to the blog, I’m glad you’re here. I encourage you to scroll back through the weeks that came before to see what’s been going on. It’s been quite an adventure. If I’m honest, there have been weeks where I’ve found it quite difficult to nail down a particular word that’s different or more unique than the one before. But here we are. Thanks for following along. Your feedback, reflections, and support mean more than you’ll ever know.
Now, to the word that resonated most with me this week – HOPE
Dang, James, I thought we were talking about HOPE, then you throw out “DISAPPOINTMENT”?
I hear you. Roll with me…
Over the last couple years my thoughts have been all over the place with regard to what a future in the education space would look like. While I haven’t been able to work for another Texas public school district (until August 16, 2023 under current settlement agreement) I’ve been approached for several roles with a number of education adjacent non-profits.
Without fail, when it comes time to sign on the dotted line it’s been the same old song:
“Let’s just wait til things cool down, politically.”
“We’d love to bring you on right now, but we’re afraid of the political consequences.”
“Actually, we’ve thought about it and you’re way overqualified for this role. You’d get bored with this.”
“We can bring you on…you just need to (insert statement of sacrificing my authentic self and who I’ve been as an educational leader over the last decade).”
There have even been organizations who’ve gone out of their way to say they’d create a role just to bring me on board. But when it came down to it – radio silence. Message received.
This, coupled with the mounting legal expense of ongoing litigation has been a downright exhaustive process. I’ve had moments of anger, disgust, angst, depression, and frustration. There have been days where I did not want to get out of bed. There have been days where I haven’t wanted to talk to anyone outside of my home. No response to any calls or texts. Just alone with my thoughts and my keyboard. Writing has been such a very therapeutic tool during this time.
This hasn’t been the first moment of despair throughout the course of my life – and I know it won’t be the last. Actually, I feel like my journey to this point has been somewhat of a training ground for when these moments arise. My mother always told me “son, no matter how bad things seem, they could always be worse. Similarly, no matter how good things seem to be going, they can change in a heartbeat. Don’t allow yourself to get too high or too low based on life’s circumstances. Be present in the moment. Live!” These words have been etched in my heart and carried me through the fire.
While I can’t openly share yet what I’ll be up to in August, I’m pretty excited! Believe me, when I can share, I will. For now, I’ll just say that what I learned early this week gave me a great sense of hope! There is light at the end of the tunnel! In due time I will be back to living out my purpose of partnering with educators and families to create excellent, dynamic, nurturing, and equitable learning environments for youth.
Disappointment has been a steady resident in my mind. It takes up space in my soul. I felt it’s sharp sting. But through it I’ve learned so much. Though it has been challenging, I refuse to discount its place in my growth. Through the lessons learned in the most disappointing of situations I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by true friends and an amazing family. They helped me reframe these disappointments and point me towards hope for a brighter future.
Under a bright blue sky kids bounced across the landscape. If you haven’t been to Grand Prairie’s PlayGrand Adventures, I’d highly recommend it. It’s phenomenal and very intentionally built to be inclusive of all children. Kids and families everywhere, as far as the eyes could see. There is so much for us to learn from kids at play.
My 10 year old, Landon, is a live wire when it comes to playgrounds. The dude is everywhere – jumpin’, runnin’, climbin’ things he probably shouldn’t be climbin’, swingin’, and slidin’. He gets it honest. I still have a hard time not partaking in the fun of a playground that I’m far too big for, so I just followed him around the park and observed.
Various structures with a wide degree of complexity lay intentionally placed across the area. And there was a beautiful display of diversity around the park. This space serves as a microcosm of our society. A great sense of hope welled up inside as I watched children from different backgrounds, cultures, and experiences come together and, despite their differences, find common ground in play. They work together, communicate, and respect each other’s differences. Lessons that we, as adults, can learn from to create a world where everyone is included and valued.
I find hope in the empathy on display. On this playground, I watched children recognize and respond to the emotions of their playmates. They helped each other up when one fell down. They looked out for the person below them, so as to not crush the hands of those below them. And, as the swings were limited to only a handful, no one sat and bogarted the swings. They acknowledged that others were waiting and made their way to the next thing so someone else could feel the wind rush against their face.
As adults, we should cultivate this same empathy to create a more compassionate world. We need to listen to each other, seek to understand each other’s experiences, and work to create a world where everyone can thrive. We tend to do these things when crises arise, but what if we did it each day as we co-exist on the playgrounds of life?
No one was concerned about the nature of each other’s politics. There was no swing-side discussion on where one went to church, or if they attended church at all. No boundary lines were drawn with regard to who could play on this structure or that – or who was not allowed to play at all. They just found common humanity in playing.
These kids were not all carbon copies, cut from the same social strata, gender, race, or any other factor, but they found a way to make it work – to co-exist for a wonderful shared experience. Their free, loving, compassionate spirits gave me hope for brighter tomorrows. I hope they never forget those playground experiences. And I hope we, as the adults in their lives, can find a way to tap back into the times that we were those kids who found ways to co-exist without all being the same.
Hope as a Tool
Hope is a powerful force. It has the capacity to help us navigate life’s ups and downs. It provides optimism in the face of great challenges. Hope pushes us forward when we feel like giving in. But hope, alone, is not a strategy for overcoming obstacles. Hope cannot be a passive state. It is critical that we take action and have a plan for what we hope to achieve and become.
Through it all, a sense of hope has existed deep down in my soul. With every shaky excuse given by an organization as to why they couldn’t move forward. Every time I was ghosted by an organization I thought was an ally. Each thought of the tens of thousands of dollars in mounting legal fees. I remained hopeful that the right organization would come along and that God would provide as it relates to covering legal financial obligations. And I remained focused on the actions I must take to move forward.
While much remains to be seen as it relates to how litigation and the next step in my career will play out, I’m hopeful. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” Hope allows us to persevere in the face of adversity and remain steadfast in our pursuit of our dreams.
As you set out on the days ahead I pray you will hold fast to hope. Remember that it’s not just an emotion, but a force that can transform fear into courage, doubt into faith, and despair into optimism. It is the bridge that connects the present with the future, reminding us that tomorrow can be brighter than today. Embrace hope’s place in your life as a tool to unlock doors to new opportunities, new beginnings, and a new life. I have high hopes for you!