Running like Flash, my hardest working student whizzes by my classroom window kicking the soccer ball like he hasn’t a care in the world, and he doesn’t, at least for now.
I’m reminded of the 2005 movie “Cinderella Man” about James Braddock, a high flying boxer reduced to abject poverty with his family during the Great Depression only to make a comeback stronger in every way, winning the heavyweight boxing championship title from 1935-1937.
Holding a press conference the day before his return fight he’s asked why he’s fighting knowing it could possibly be the one that kills him (the odds against him are 1/10). He says, “I know what I’m fighting for.” What’s that?” they ask. “Milk.” And so like life, one must know what’s worth fighting and dying for.
All things being relative, my student made the difficult choice to attend a two-hour reading tutorial on Saturday morning for weeks in order to pass the required state test. Hour after hour, week after week, we struggled together, one step forward and two back until it became several steps forward and none back. Unlike a handful of other students who chose not to attend tutorials, he passed the test because he knew what was worth fighting for. One Saturday morning he comes in especially tired and distracted because of late night family problems. I ask, “Why are you making it to tutorials even though you’re exhausted and stressed? He says, “Because I know I need it and my future depends on me learning to read better.” “So, your parents aren’t making you come here?” “No.” A lesson learned about doing hard things even when you don’t feel like it. A lesson many never learn.
His buddies will attend summer school while he has a wide-margin to do what he pleases, like sleeping in if he wants. Recently, he’s been reading more substantive books with confidence; books that challenge and shape him for future success. As I’ve said many times before, we must make time for the things that matter in life, and one of them is reading.
Thoreau says, “Books are the treasured wealth of the world…To read well, that is, to read true books in a true spirit, is a noble exercise, and one that will tax the reader more than any exercise which the customs of the day esteem.” Training is required such as athletes undergo. It is the steady intention of the whole life to this endeavor. “How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book?” What are the new ideas that profoundly affect us if we take the time to read books that require us to think deeply and examine ourselves and the world in which we live? There are so many possibilities if we say no to the easy reading and the easy things in life and wrestle with thought-provoking commentary that may enrage us, but at the very least enlarge our thinking. A win for all.