Consecutive Days Riding: 41 Consecutive Days Blogging: 42
Today’s Mileage: 6 Total Trip Mileage: 350
As I ride the bike and review my day I realize I truly love what I do for a living! I relish the opportunity to stand before a room of young adults and share my knowledge and experience and get paid for it! However, the evaluation and testing of students is less enjoyable but necessary. Yet from the student responses and ratings, they appear to enjoy my classes!
Am I a good professor because the students like me and the majority of them learn the material? I would argue that makes me an “adequate” instructor. When I recall the professors I had in my undergraduate training only three stand out: an Economics professor, a Psychology professor, and a Chemistry professor. But was it their knowledge in the field that made them a favorite of the students? No, it was that they brought the subject matter to life! The classes they taught were an experience!
How many twenty year olds, caught between parties, social life and football, would have imagined that Economics was such an integral part of life? Those who took Dr. Barton’s Economics class did! Who would have imagined the vast role Chemistry played in life or the psychological motives that underlie all behaviors. Haven’t we all taken classes where we studied the material, did a memory dump on the test, took our grade and then never thought about the subject again! Good instructors brought the topic to life, making it real with poignant examples and stories. They might have even raised their voices, waving arms as they pounded on the podium.
Good professors don’t just make a point, they plant seeds! They open you up to new possibilities and to a new world view. I’ve had students tell me that a particular lecture, or story immediately changed their perception of life. I’ve had many call me back years after they have moved on with life, to tell me that the seeds I planted in my classes had sprouted and were now bearing fruit. These interactions are gratifying and reinforce me to keep planting those seeds.
How is all of this relevant to our daily spiritual journey? I encounter many people of different faiths and spiritual practices who desire to influence other individuals’ spiritual life. In some cases it’s a desire to see suffering relieved. In other cases it’s a desire to increase their flock with converts. Some do it because they are told by their faith. Many do it out of a fear for the salvation of others. I remember a time in the Navy when a neighbor returned to the dorm in the evening with a beaming smile. I asked him about it and he exclaimed: “Two and a half, two and a half souls I’ve saved!” I asked him the obvious question about the fraction of a soul. He noted that he and a fellow believer witnessed to a sailor who “gave himself to the Lord” so he figured they should each get half a soul credit!
I have found that if you want to be effective at influencing other people and have fun in the process of doing it, you need to be genuine and authentic! I often see my students looking back at me with that wide eyed expression associated with a “he is really into this stuff” mind set. At that moment I know I am “in my grove” and that I am planting the seeds of possibilities, of new horizons, of new ideas and experiences.
I remember sitting with a group of my church teens as we spoke with an orange robed, shaved head Buddhist nun. I felt that sense of congruence as she spoke her story and told “her truths.” These were not mere words, she lived them! None of us rushed out and converted to Buddhism, but we all knew we had been in the presence of a special human being. Words and sermons attract, but the power to influence comes out of actions. Of course I am not telling you anything new, anything you haven’t heard from the pulpit. Embrace the love of God, live the love, be an example of it!
I have a friend who is very devout in her faith. She attended a church workshop about the qualities of a “true believer.” She noted to me that “you have all the qualities they talked about, but you aren’t a believer!” I smiled, nodded and then added: “I believe, just not in the same things you believe!”
We have the greatest impact on others when we present them not just with a new idea, but with a new experience: an experience that challenges them to open up, consider, expand, grow and become something new!