Last week I had a conversation with my daughter who was talking about how upset she had been recently to be shouted at by a person in a position of authority. We had this conversation by skype because she is doing a holiday job in the country where she is going to university, to raise money to pay for her next year at university. There are many times when we miss being with each other face to face, and this was one of them. As a mum I really wanted to hug her, but instead I had to talk to her about taking responsibility for her own life and making decisions based on her values and not her feelings - in short being proactive.
Even as an adult it's sometimes hard to be proactive, even when circumstances are so bad that we know we really have to move on. Another response to a bad situation, or to someone treating us unfairly or disrespectfully, is to decide that what happens will not hurt us or turn us into a bad person ourselves. Living through such an experience has taught me that these are the times when we grow as a person, we develop the grit to go on, and that staying true to your values and principles through all this develops an inner strength and provides an inspiration to others. I was recently reading about the terrible situation one international teacher found himself in in Qatar, when he spent 12 days in prison based on something he was alleged to have said to a student. Having come through this experience he has returned to his home country of Nepal to start an educational charity to build a school. You can follow this link to find out more about this school.
As I have read further in Stephen Covey's book about 7 habits, I have come to a passage that illuminates for me our choices: we are free to choose our responses in any situation but in doing so we pick up the attendant consequences "when we pick up one end of the stick, we pick up the other."
We don't often know what the consequences will be when we make our choices (hindsight is a wonderful thing) and sometimes the choices we make lead to consequences we would rather not have happened, and if after all this we look back and say "I should have done things differently" then we call those choices mistakes. A good example of this is when I left Thailand and accepted a job in Europe, and then a few days later I had the chance of another (better) job. Having accepted the first one I did what I thought was the principled thing and stuck with that decision, but the consequences of this choice was a lot of unhappiness and a negative effect on my family. Would I do things differently again - yes. Yet you can't turn back the clock or hit the Undo button. The best you can do in these circumstances is to learn from the mistake, correct it and not allow it to turn you into a failure. Correcting the mistake takes away the power it has to hurt us - so a proactive attitude can empower us to turn a failure into a success. While it is true that we pick up both ends of the stick, we don't have to keep hanging on to a stick that is no use to us - we can make a new choice to put it back down again and pick up a different one.
Dorje Gurung could have made different choices. He could have chosen to leave education altogether after the way he was treated by a student, the student's family and the school. Instead he has chosen to be proactive, to walk away with his head high, his values intact, and to pursue his dreams of starting a school, so that the students who attend it can also start to follow their dreams. He has turned a terrible situation into one where he is now able to improve the lives of those who up to now have had few opportunities to better themselves.
Dreams are important; they are part of ASB's mission statement too:
We inspire all of our students to continuous inquiry, empowering them with the skills, courage, optimism, and integrity to pursue their dreams and enhance the lives of others.I'm so proud to be a part of this school!