Last week I wrote a letter to my Mom thanking her for being one of my spiritual and moral mentors. She and my Bubby are the first two, which came to my mind. As I have thought about all the spiritual and moral mentors in my life I have come to realize that while some of them were people I knew, others were people I have never met. Some of my teachers have been people who served as examples of how I did not want to be because I saw the harm they inflicted on others. Yet I need to give thanks to them as well, although I will not mention them by name as the lessons they taught me were decades ago and I would not want them to be judged, by this one incident.
This reminds me that Sister Helen Prejean, one of those women I have never met, taught me a valuable lesson. I once read or heard, I can’t remember, where she asked, why is it that we judge someone by the single worst thing they have ever done. That one teaching has stayed with me for decades. I am not without sin in my own life. I have done things over the last 58 years, which intentionally or not, have hurt people and I would not want to have my entire life judged by something I did decades ago. This lesson was so helpful to me when I was writing letters to two people serving long terms in prison. It taught me to remember that they were human beings; they were not their crime.
One of my other spiritual teachers was a professor I had while doing my doctoral studies. She taught me to hold myself to a higher standard. I did not learn until after she had left the university that she had switched the authorship on a journal article I had written in her class. When it was discovered and I started speaking out I came to learn there were other students who she had done this to, but none of them had spoken up. Her behaviors taught me that when we transgress our moral boundaries, and are not caught, it makes it easier for us to do it repeatedly, until this behavior becomes the new norm. This taught me to maintain my moral and spiritual boundaries, and not ever be tempted to do something just because I think I can get away with it.
One of my other spiritual teachers was my major professor and doctoral chair, Dr Diane Samdahl. There will never be words in my heart to thank her for all she taught me, not just about leisure studies, but also about life. I remember a time when I just wanted to give up. I did not believe in myself and was ready to walk away from the degree I had worked so hard to earn. She told me to go home, get some sleep, and to delay making any decisions in life when I was tired. I did, and the next day, after much needed sleep I had a different perspective on the situation. Later in the process, when I thought I had showed my dissertation committee how stupid I really was and at the same time was embarrassed by my performance, she taught me to find the courage within myself to meet with each of the amazing women on my committee and talk to them. Facing her was the hardest, however, she embraced me with so much love and compassion and taught me to always face my fears and rise. This lesson she taught me has been invaluable and I have tried to be the model of love, strength, wisdom, and compassion for my students as she was for me. She did more than help me earn my doctorate, she helped me begin the journey towards owning my inner strength and wisdom.
As I sit here and think about some of these teachers in my life, I realize there are so many people who I need to give thanks for in my life. They were the ones who have helped me learn how to be compassionate, loving, and patient with others. I guess I know what I will be writing about next week.
Thanks God for the reminders.