Copyright © Louis Schmier

Date: Sat 12/17/2005 5:20 AM
Random Thought: Divine Sparks

The envelope was plain gray. It had the dimensions of a greeting card, but it was obvious that it didn't house a card. It was weightless and pliable. It had no return address. It had arrived about a week ago, a few days after my surgery. It lay around unopened for a few days as I lay around. Then, a few days ago, I casually opened it. Unfolded what looked like an ordinary piece of legal paper. There was no ordinary about it. It was an unsigned gift for which I was not prepared. It was a poem, handwritten:


			You really cared enough to care about me, didn't you?
			You really cared enough to believe in me, didn't you?
			You really cared and believed enough to see me,
				to listen to me,
					to help me build me up, didn't you?
			Lots of people around here say they cared
			But, they never dared
			"I care" is easy to say, 
			It's in the doing of caring that saves the day.
			You cared about me when it wasn't easy
			You cared about me when you were busy
			You believed in me 
				when I didn't care to do what 
				you knew I could be.  
			You cared about me when I wasn't perfect.  
			You believed in me when I was disrespectful.
			You cared about me when I was a handful 
			You believed in me when I screwed up.  
			You cared about me when I faltered.  
			You believed in me when I made it tough for you.  
			You cared about me when I demanded time from you.  
			You believed in me when I did not like you.  
			You cared about me so you saw I am capable.  
			You believed in me enough 
				to see past my weaknesses to see my strengths
				to see past my ugliness to see my beauties  
			You cared about me when. I hadn't done anything 
				to deserve your caring.  
			You believe in me even when I didn't yet believe
			You cared about me even when I didn't care
			You saw in me a divine spark
			When all I saw was dark and stark
			And thought I was just a lark
			I bet you don't remember
			When I told you I was just a spent ember.
			Didn't matter
			You just kept on caring in a caring way
				no conditions
			You just kept on believing in a believing way
			You just kept on coming at me
				day after day after day
			Nothing I could do or say
			Would make you go away 
			As a student I was an F
			As a person you saw me as an A	
			That's what made me stay
			Day after day after day
			You cared
			That made me scared
			I didn't know why
			That made me cry
			My anger made it worse
			My mouth spewed out every curse			
			Whenever I deliberately slowed my pace
			There you were in my face
			You kept on me to seek my rightful place
			And now I know I am full of grace

			I know that it is too late for today
			That I am beginning to see the light of day
			And chase away my dismal gray
			I know that it is not too late for tomorrow's day
			To see in me a whole new way 
			To see that in all I can be I can be an A
			I've started caring about me,
				and believing in me, too
			I've started seeing what I could be and what I can do
			I've joined you in caring and believing, 
				in me
			That makes me so full of joyous glee 
			I want you to know that I'm so full of so much vim
			Because I  know I'm gonna be another Kim.	

			The color on your pinky is true
			Whatever the week's color it is a loving hue
			Please keep doing it for others, I beg of you.
			Help them set themselves on the right and true
			So they can say as I do
			A quiet and grateful, "Thank you"

Of all the accolades and awards and recognitions one could earn in academia, this poem is as good as it gets. What an honor to have earned a poem like this. I can't think of a better Chanukah present.

For the life of me, I don't know who wrote this poem. I can't find any clues with its lines. I'm not sure that it really matters. Anyway, when whoever wrote the poem talked of her inner divine spark, it sparked a memory of a Kabbalah story I had read a couple of months ago. The Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Jewish Hasidism, explained that when God finished creating the heavens and the earth, God returned to heaven. Overflowing with joy, God celebrated, taking radiant sparks of light, throwing them up into the air, and watching them fall to the earth. For a moment, the earth radiated with glorious light as the sparks of God poured down from heaven. As they landed, however, the sparks became embedded in everything they touched. Eventually, the earth darkened, the divine sparks smoldering deep within every rock, and tree, and within every human heart as well disappeared from view. Realizing that we could no longer see the bright sparks, God gave us tools with which to uncover them, to stir the embers in ourselves and each other into a blazing fire, and once again illuminate and warm our world.

So maybe we as teachers should be "spark hunters" and "ember stirrers" with such tools as a soul of hope, a spirit of love, a heart of faith and belief and respect, a mind of empowerment and confidence, and a set of sharpened senses open to hints of the sacred in each student as well as in ourselves.

Well, there are no maybes about it. If you want to stir the embers, if you want the sparks to fly, if you want the inner fires to blaze, if you want to help students to be more caring of themselves and more believing in themselves and more accomplished, believe in them; caringly care about them; and, keep at it even when they don't believe or care. Open yourself to each and every student each day as if you were a curious child seeing things for the first time.

Think you have to go to Tibet seeking someone draped in saffron robes to find a sacred place? You don't. The place is right here inside you inside the classroom. You need only know how to make the classroom mystical whisperings of your soul and how to become a prayer yourself. Treat each student as sacred, believe the divine spark is hidden in each of them to be stirred into a blazing fire, and you will make your routine anything but routine. Then, as Martin Buber would have said, each new day will become purer and more beautiful, and more satisfying and fulfilling, and more profound than the one before.

Let me and Susan take this opportunity to wish each and every one of you and your family a very Merry Christmas, a Happy Chanukah, a Happy Kwansaa, a Happy New Year, and a joyous holiday season. And to my friends of the Islamic faith, a much belated but no less sincere "Eid Mubarak."

         Make it a good day.


         Louis Schmier      
         Department of History
         Valdosta State University
         Valdosta, GA  31698                 /~\        /\ /\
         912-333-5947              /^\      /     \    /  /~\  \   /~\__/\
                                 /     \__/         \/  /  /\ /~\/         \
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                        -_~    /  "If you want to climb mountains,   \ /^\
                         _ _ /      don't practice on mole hills" -    \____

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