After a summer of leisure, students and teachers have embarked upon a new school year. What did you think about when you saw or heard the words “back to school?” Perhaps you recalled a joke about children going back to school and parents getting some precious time back. Possibly, you breathed a sigh of relief as you realized that those days are behind you.
Recall with me what those words brought to mind for you. Maybe memories of exciting events or rewarding yet grueling hours devoted to projects. However, compare this with a time when simple learning changed your life. Maybe when you learned to ride a bicycle or tie your shoes.
Though it is important, not all learning needs to be a passive absorption of important facts. Intentional learning about important things frees us to become who God is making us to be.
Learning in a classroom is perhaps the most important form of learning, but it is only one form of learning. Recall again a time when learning really changed your world. Was it burdensome?
What if more of our learning was transformative or learning that mattered to you? Our capacity to learn, communicate and work together is God’s greatest gift to us. These gifts allow us to pursue truth as our highest calling, with God as the highest and most beautiful “Truth” to be sought out.
Remember the experience of Helen Keller. Blind and deaf from birth, Helen was a troubled child until one day her teacher helped her connect the sensation of flowing water with the signs for the word “water.” Helen’s cramped world suddenly expanded with this one simple lesson. Further, it ignited her desire to learn and opened up a whole new world to her. By harnessing our power to learn and turning it towards the things that we are passionate about, we can unleash our greatest abilities to do good. We exchange our struggles for true excellence. We can confidently look for answers when we are confident that there are answers to be found.
With this transformation, we have the daily opportunity to make our learning and development a more intentional effort. Maybe as you read this column, you are being brought to places where your learning could grow. Go out and find what you need. There are teachers and mentors all around waiting to be asked. Likewise, find something you are passionate about that you can develop. The things that inspire you have a special power to keep you going when everyone else would have given up.
If you are unsure what to do, try different options until you find what you love. Using our passions in a constructive way can sharpen us into excellent people. Each of us has this capacity. You have inherently within you that capacity to become the person that God created you to be. Stir up into actions this gift that God has given you, recognizing that there will always be work required to be molded into who God has created us to be. However, if we do nothing, the forces of life will haphazardly mold us. If, instead, we want things to be different, we must do something different.
In all of this, I am not saying that more education makes a person happier, as if signing up for the correct courses will dissolve life’s difficulties. I am saying that intentional learning is a good first step to a happier life. Allow the good things that excite you to push you. Each of us was made to offer the gifts God gives us back to Him in our service to others. Focused and intentional learning about our gifts and about what is important can free us to fully become who God is calling us to be. Let us ask God to bless our efforts at learning this year, in the classroom and beyond.