First Day of School Offers Life-Long Lesson

Many times we tend to forget there is nothing like the very first day of school.

The other day a friend of mine was telling me about how his young daughter is so excited to start kindergarten she is constantly walking around the house in her new backpack and a book tucked under her arm.

“It’s a chapter book,” he said. “She’ll crawl up on the sofa when no one is looking and ask me to read it to her.”

This, if you’re a parent, is one of truly special moments – when our children are so hungry to learn they can barely sit still or go to sleep at night.

The week before his wife brought home a pink, fluffy diary for their daughter.

“You know,” my friend added, “our daughter will sit down at the table each day and fill pages with nothing but letters and then turn to us and say ‘look what I wrote in my diary today.”

Recently I found myself traveling out of the county only to discover this thirst, this hunger to learn, is universal.

Driving down an unpaved road in a small coastal town, I spotted a handful of children walking towards a nearby school. Dressed in blue shorts, white shirts and each with a small bag for their books, they were laughing and teasing each other as the road lead them through an area most of us would only define as extreme poverty – except it was their home.

Carefully navigating around the students on the uneven road, I  noticed the youngest boy broke off into a foot race with our car, his face bobbing up and down outside the window. With a radiant smile, you could see his pure happiness, his enthusiasm for the particular moment in his life.

Somewhere along the line, our thirst for education goes from a foot race to a marathon. The first day of school excitement fades for many as the years pass. By the time many enter their senior year of high school, their heads are filled with countless distractions and social pressures. The lure of learning, unfortunately, finds its gravity weakening in the eyes of many.

Earlier this week my wife ran across a photo of our daughter standing in the driveway, dwarfed by an oversize backpack while beaming a brilliant smile over her right-hand shoulder on her first day of kindergarten. She, too, shared the energy of my friend’s young daughter as well as the young boy who raced alongside my car the month before.

Learning – or the unbridled thirst to learn like my friend’s daughter – is something we would all love to bottle, store, and uncork as needed throughout our entire lives. Some of us tend to forget the accuracy of the old saying that “we are the sum of our experiences”. We are — fortunately or not — just that. What you put in, generally determines what comes out.

Learning is a life-changing experience – but the drive must come from within. Our mind is designed to learn from the day it first flickers to life until the day we take our final breath. But the energy and enthusiasm for the long run learning is purely up to us.

The secret, however, might actually might be closer to home than we think. Maybe, just maybe, all we need to do is remember how to act like a kid on our first day of school for the rest of our lives.

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