Friday, August 26, 2011

Grown-up School Supplies

This time of year you cannot escape the flurry of activity taking place at the local discount stores. Where there was once red, white and blue paper plates and plastic cutlery, the sale aisle is filled with glue, notebooks, markers, and packs of number two pencils with the little rubber erasers on the ends.

All those packs of paper and protractors remind me of back-to-school when I was a boy. I would have brightly colored folders, books with crisp pages and brand new, spotless clothes. Pencils, with their pristine erasers, having just been sharpened, stood ready to tackle anything the teachers could dish out. With summer passing into memory, and a new school year looming ahead, there was a brief moment of time each fall that held a golden opportunity, a chance to start over. I could make new friends, impress the teachers with my hard work, be a totally different kid if I wanted. Oh, the possibilities… Anything I could anticipate now, as an adult, pales in comparison to the breathless expectancy of those few days before school started.

I remember trying so hard to keep all the new stuff neat and clean at the beginning of the year. This lasted about a week. Mistakes were made, pages torn, clothes got dirty. My fresh start settled into a comfortable routine filled with the realities of everyday life. School became an exercise in wrestling with words and problems. And a lot of erasing.

You know, the guy who invented the eraser had the human race pretty much figured out.

A little back-story: Prior to the invention of the rubber eraser, people used bread to remove written mistakes. Bread. Try it sometime and you'll realize that it doesn't work very well. So, tired of huge, crumb-filled smudges on his papers, an enterprising fellow decided to put a rubber eraser on the end of a wooden pencil.

He knew that people make mistakes. Mistakes are a part of what makes us human. Everyone, at some time or another circles b and then realizes it should be c, or puts the wrong word in 23 Across, or writes a story with the cart before the horse. But the eraser is proof that there is an opportunity to change what is not correct, to take an idea and improve on it, to erase what has been written and start over.

What defines us as people isn't that we make mistakes, but how we deal with them. Having an eraser is a good thing. Using it is even better. Have the courage to rewrite anything that isn’t your best; a relationship that needs fixing, a way of thinking that has not yielded anything positive, you know where the mistakes are. Go at them with the determination of a fifth grader who wants a good grade. Make corrections; Today Counts!

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