The Pencil Maker took the pencil aside, just before putting it into the box.
"There are five things you need to know," he told the pencil, "before I send you out into the world. Always remember, never forget them, and you will become the best pencil you can be."
One: You will be able to correct any mistakes you might make.
Two: The most important part of you will always be what's inside.
Three: On every surface you are used on, you must leave your mark. No matter what the condition, you must continue to write.
Four: You will experience a painful sharpening from time to time, but you'll need it to become a better pencil.
And Five: You will be able to do many great things, but only if you allow yourself to be held in someone's hand.
The pencil understood and promised to remember, and went into the box with purpose in its heart.
Parables like the one above are often used to explain a life lesson. Many of us are first introduced to parables in our religious instruction. As I look at where my life is at this moment, I have to agree with the ideas expressed above, though with some reservation.
I believe we can and should correct our mistakes, if they truly are a mistake and not a lesson to be learned. In hindsight, yes, there are things I wish I had done differently, but I ask, "Was I honest with myself at the time it happened?" And most often the answer is, "Yes." Then it was not a mistake, but a lesson learned, however painful.
What's most important is what's on the inside, not the outside. Very true. Who we are as a person far outweighs what we look like, or how we dress. However, when it comes to selecting a life partner, there also needs to be some physical attraction. Chemistry plays an important part in the sexual makeup of a romantic partnership. Sometimes, it can be the inside that makes the outside even more appealing. I have met some very attractive men, but are not quite what I like as far as the inside person, and likewise I have not been attracted to some really great guys. I like that unique combination of a man who attracts me by both his inner character and his outward appearance.
We never know what influence we may have on another person. That is foremost in my thoughts as a teacher, and especially now, as I am teaching pre-adolescents. While many students have returned to visit, it's not the academic lessons they remember, it's the life lessons I have tried to instill in them that they recall the most. I have had some very difficult students over the years, and have tried my hardest to leave my mark. I can only hope they see it at some point. But, it can be a little more difficult with friends, as we are usually both adults. We adults can be more set in our ways, struggling against lessons we know may be good for us, but too painful to learn. I try to always learn something from my friends and by just being myself, I can only hope they take something from me.
Life is painful. But, life is also about growth. We cannot grow without pain. This last year and a half has been very painful for me; I've learned lessons from my divorce, from an unrequited love, from a drastic change in my teaching regimen, and from changes in my lifestyle due to changes in my finances as a result of my divorce. I feel as if I am being oversharpened at times, but the Universe believes in me, since it has presented me with all these lessons at once, and so I persevere. If all this sharpening is to make me an even better person, then I am going to be even more awesome than I already am!
Allowing someone else to guide us may be the hardest lesson to learn; but, for me, it has become the most important. By forcing our lives to go in the direction we want, it may not be what is best for us or what the Universe, God, Allah, or Our Higher Power has in store for us. As humans, we want to be in control of our lives, of our destinies. We want things to go the way that is more comfortable. And therefore, safe. When we go against what the Universe has planned, we usually find ourselves struggling, trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. We may not find our true happiness. But, by learning to let go and just let someone else guide us, we will at least be on the right path, if we follow.
Also, the Universe might have a use for us in someone else's life, maybe as a catalyst for their life lesson; the students in my classes come to mind. They are there for academic lessons, naturally; but what about life lessons? What about the possibility that I could learn from them? On the first day of school four years ago, a very proud girl walked directly to a seat in the front and center of the classroom, took out a notebook, a pencil, folded her hands and waited. She was ready to learn. I took it as a challenge. No other student had openly exhibited such an attitude of pride in learning before. I learned that there are students who will rise to the challenge of being pushed, and I changed my teaching style to fit her needs, not mine.
As I go forth on my path, I try to remember this advice from the pencil maker, and I know there is a reason for all the sharpening.
But, personally, I hope the sharpening comes to an end soon. At least for a little while. I could use a rest.
Photos of the pencil sculptures were used with permission from http://www.jennifermaestre.com/index.php
Thank you, Jennifer.