by cheri sabraw
“It’s all about me!” Those are the words emblazoned across a t-shirt I recently purchased for my two-year-old grandson, Noah.
Most of us who have raised children know that every child, teenager, and Millennium could be outfitted in that same t-shirt. “It’s all about me!”
And one only needs to watch the morning TV news shows to recognize that many adults in our modern culture are focused on themselves as well. Why, in one week of channel surfing between the hours of 7-9am, I found NBC and CBS taking me along to watch an underarm fat reduction, (this story ironically was on when I was trying to wedge a turkey wing back into the roasting pan) helping me to understand why I might be sad at the holidays, and finally, familiarizing me with the perils of pedicures. I guess there are bacteria in those foot tubs!
I am reminded of a unit I used to teach at a local high school the 80’s and 90’s which was about fledgling American writers, most notably, Benjamin Franklin. Most of us recognize Franklin for his inventions and his dallying around with electricity, but how many know that upon his rising from bed each morning (and remember, he lived in the 1700’s, so getting out of bed at 5am in Philadelphia could be a dark, cold experience), Franklin would ask himself out loud, “What good can I do this day?”
At the end of his day, before retiring to his cold bed, he would assess his efforts. “What good have I done this day?”
For two weeks, my students had to ask those same questions, after emerging from their warm beds, insulated with down comforters. Their assignment was to proceed through their days, perhaps focused on someone else, if even for a nanosecond. In Franklinesque style, they had to keep a journal, recording their efforts to get away from themselves. And at the end of their days, after homework and texting, they had to give themselves credit for the times when they smiled at another person in the hallway, shared their McDonald’s burgers, or bought a 1/4 of a gallon of gas for their friends.
I liked this assignment. We should all try it. Not only might it redirect us away from our daily mental rants and insignificant preoccupations with drivel, it might also allow us to acknowledge to ourselves the good we try to do in small ways. After all, many of us are quite self-critical.