It is hard to imagine that one could get so excited about the back-to-school season after retiring from academe as a professor. I did last Tuesday when I was invited to join my more seasoned fellow Rotarians who have been giving out dictionaries to all third graders in Cache and Rich Counties every new school year since 2002.
“There is a beautiful world of words and you will find it in the dictionary,” said Fred Berthrong, past Governor of the Utah District of Rotary International. He led the team last Tuesday to present 112 dictionaries to all third graders and their teachers at Woodruff Elementary. I see a brave new world out there when I look through the eyes of the school children. Causing quite a bit of positive commotion, they energetically flip through the pages of those brand-new dictionaries they can now call their own. They are ready – ready to explore that beautiful world referred to by Berthrong!
My friends enjoy teasing me for having a Chinese proverb for every occasion, and one eagerly came to mind – chu sheng zhi du bu wei hu (初生之犊不畏虎). This proverb speaks of the newborn calf who has no fears, not even of the tiger. Many of us can recall the time when we were small children. It was a time when our curiosity, ambition, appetite for the unknown, and hunger for knowledge knew no bounds or fears.
But something happened along the way and we began opening our door to certain fears. The fear to get out of our comfort zone, to be someplace else, or to get to a usual place by an unusual way. The fear to apply for college or employment. The fear of using the phone to talk, the fear of making contact in person, the fear of submitting to an art show or a letter to the editor. The fear to offer or accept help. The fear to forgive. The fear to speak a foreign language or use a new way of communicating. The fear to try and to keep trying.
Maybe uncertainty is what really bothers us. If twists and turns are what we expect in a good book or movie, why not in a good life? It is not the unexpected turn of events that make a good story but how the heroes or heroines take it in their stride. We too can be heroes and heroines in someone’s life by helping that person hope a little more and fear a little less, like we once so naturally did as children. “It may not be on the mountain’s height, or over the stormy sea. It may not be at the battle’s front” a friend or stranger will have need of you and me. When we are willing to be the best unsung hero in other people’s lives one minute a day, we can help keep their fears away. Indeed, a lot can be achieved over one minute of our time, in holding someone’s hand when he or she is in unfamiliar territory, in offering a word of encouragement when someone is unsure or confused, in saying hello and making someone feel comfortable and welcome, in extending a word of appreciation or gratitude, in acknowledging a different perspective, in graciously accepting or offering help, in not holding grudges, in patiently hearing others out when they are struggling to speak our language, and in reminding someone to never give up.
With one minute of our time each day we can help each other remember that we have been given the gift of confidence and power, and of love, and of a sound mind, like the third graders, and the newborn calf who fears no tiger.
© Copyright 2014 Little Bloomsbury Studios, LLC. All rights reserved.
Dr. B. C. Sun is a Rotarian and the Founding Executive Director of Little Bloomsbury Foundation, an arts-related peace organization. An award-winning economist, she began her career on Wall Street, New York and was Vice President of Global Consumer Banking at Citibank and Basil Blackwell Fellow at London School of Economics where she earned her PhD.
This article contains excerpts from her Chinese proverb-based radio show “La Doctora Sun, La Filósofa China”, a production of Little Bloomsbury Studios. It is broadcast live in Spanish every Wednesday at 10:00 A.M. on Juan FM 104.5 FM of Cache Valley Media Group. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.