"You Might Be Doing Too Much...And That's Ok!"
NO ONE at our school was happy about having to be in the building on December 23rd. After all, it was two days before Christmas! Being there felt unnatural - like an act of blasphemy against the spirit of the season. It seemed like the whole world was at home, wrapping presents or making cookies or watching It's a Wonderful Life. Having to be in the building on December 23rd was proof that, just maybe, the Grinch really had stolen Christmas. In spite of all the grumbling in the days leading up to the 23rd, when the day arrived, most of us made a valiant attempt to fill the building with some version of cheer. Over half of the adults and teenagers that filled our high school wore something red or green. Some showed off their ugly sweaters and exchanged gifts. A few of the teachers ordered pizza or gave out sweet treats, and one teacher even made pancakes throughout the day. When I saw the flash mob that formed at the front entrance singing Christmas carols, I knew it would be a good day. One student decided to celebrate the day in his own way. I heard students laughing and gasping at Christian before I actually saw him. A high pitched, "OMG" lured me away from my desk and into the hallway where Santa greeted me with a hearty "HO, HO, HO" and a candy cane he pulled from his green pillow case. It was Christian, dressed in full and perfected Santa gear from head to toe. He was totally committed to affecting every aspect of what Santa represented. For a moment, I was completely absorbed, watching him fill the halls with gladness, until another high pitched cry caught my attention: "Uh-Uh... HE'S DOING TOO MUCH!" Even the sun, in all of its brightness creates shadows, so I guess I the arrival of Christian's "haters" was inevitable. Nevertheless, Christian's commitment to "doing too much" was probably what eventually silenced the negative voices. For days after seeing Christian, I thought about the often overused phrase that seems to have become the war cry of critics: doing too much. I've concluded that doing too much, in and of itself, is not really the problem. A bigger problem is our unwillingness to do too much of the right thing and our fear of the criticism that often follows when we live passionately. In this season of resolutions and renewal, I've decided to make 2015 the year that I do too much! In fact, if I can take the liberty of contributing to the list of things that would make the world a better place, I'd like to suggest that this world would improve significantly if everyone made the commitment to do too much (or at least do a little bit more). I want my students to do too much when they are writing about a character in a book we've read! Every doctor who finds an abnormal lump in the body of a patient should commit to doing too much to find a cure. When I go to church on Sunday, I want the greeter to do too much when I walk through the doors. I hope her smile and the warmth of her hello will make me forget the cold air and frigid flakes that I drove through to get there. I want the usher to do too much as he selects the perfect seat, so I can fully absorb the words from my pastor who has also decided to do way too much in 2015 because he knows that the words he says from the pulpit might very well save my life. In 2015 I hope I hear someone sing a song that makes me cry. I hope someone writes a book that causes me to jump up and start living better - immediately. Too much! The day after Christmas I saw a movie that proved that real healing can occur when a group of people come together and collectively and intentionally decide to do too much. Selma documented the struggle for voter registration equality in Selma, Alabama during the 1960s. Dr. King and the other leaders knew that doing too much was the only way to bring about change. To say that the movie was one of the best that I have ever seen, feels like another injustice. The movie was the closest I've ever felt in my adult life to actually being a part of a film. My seat was sandwiched between my daughter and a 70- something year old white man named, John Ridgeley. Both of them punctuated the entire experience with head-dropping sobs at various points throughout the movie. In one climatic scene, President Johnson finally stopped fighting against Dr. King's efforts by confronting the racist and stubborn Governor George Wallace who was determined to uphold the widely accepted rules of segregation. President Johnson took hold of his purpose and legacy by boldly declaring his intention to support the peaceful protests. At that moment, Mr. Ridgeley screamed out "WOOOO HOOOO." Someone might have felt like he was doing too much, but he gave voice to the prevailing mood, and the theater erupted into applause. When the movie ended, my son-in-law, Robert, cut across the aisle without discussion, to shake the man's hand. I wasn't sure where he was going or why he was moving so quickly, and for a second I, admittedly, was thinking that he was doing too much. But their handshake and subsequent embrace filled me with hope for the possibility of racial reconciliation at a time when Rob physically looks too similar to the Trayvon Martins, Oscar Grants, and Michael Browns that will become the iconic faces of his generation if someone doesn't quickly start doing too much. Even after we left the theater, the feeling of needing to do too much of something wouldn't turn us loose, so we stood around in the lobby waiting for the emotion to dissipate into the crowd. My daughter couldn't keep her feet still, and I kept waiting for her to burst into a song or dance or both. And honestly, if she had started running through the crowded lobby, I might very well have followed her just on general principle because I felt it too! The three of us paced around excitedly knowing we had to do something but not quite sure what. No doubt, as we stood there laughing and crying, spontaneously quoting lines from the movie, songs, the wisdom of my parents and even phrases from biblical scriptures, some people in the crowded space probably thought that we were doing too much - but I didn't care. What's so wrong with doing too much? If I have a purpose (and I believe that we all do), then why not do too much to fulfill that purpose? Otherwise, what's the point of having a purpose at all? As a teacher, I should do too much every day of the school year. I shouldn't teach as if my next pay check depends on it; I should teach as if my students' ability to earn a pay check and fulfill their own purpose depends on it! Let's make 2015 the year that we do waaaaay too much. Even if we fall short, it will be better than the alternative which is doing nothing at all.