“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.”
Photo via Wikimedia Commons.
This year, my New Year’s “Revelations” are based on some of the witticisms and words of wisdom that my mother and father imparted to me.
When I was young, I used to roll my eyes and shake my head at them – not really heeding their words.
Or so I thought.
They’ve since passed, and not a day goes by that I don’t miss them.
Most importantly, their words – often colourful and humorous, but always spot-on – resonate deeply with me today.
I now share them with you.
My father used to say:
“If you don’t want to read or learn about what’s going on around the world – in other countries, in other cultures – then, you’re an idiot!”
Those were his exact, emphatic words and they were directed at me. The year was 1974. He was reprimanding me for not showing an interest in an international news story that he was reading out loud to us. Amazingly, I remember that the article was about Russian novelist/historian and Nobel Prize winner Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn being deported from the Soviet Union to Frankfurt (Germany) and stripped of his Soviet Citizenship. Solzhenitsyn had spent 11 years in exile, at a Soviet labor camp for criticizing Stalin. In 1973, he wrote The Gulalg Archipelago (Arkhipelag Gulag) – about the Soviet prison/labor camp system under Stalin. The manuscript, which started to appear in installments in Paris, was seized by the KGB in the Soviet Union.
These were some of the stories that my father tried to engage us with at the breakfast table and in the evenings, after dinner. He would get so frustrated with me when I did not show interest.
But, as the saying goes, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Ironically, I went on to earn undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science and history. I write books that focus on socio-economic issues affecting everyday people, and I tell their stories by placing them in their political, historical and cultural context.
I feel privileged to have had such an intense, intelligent and well-read father. How I wish that he were alive today. Oh, what wonderful, spirited discussions and debates we would have!
I can’t emphasize enough (as he did before me) how important it is for us to learn about (and appreciate) the wonderful diversity and nuances of our world community. We are all inter-connected, to some degree.
With knowledge, we gain understanding.
With understanding, we become enlightened, compassionate human beings.
With compassion, we can help each other and we can effect change – positive change.
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
― Augustine of Hippo
Image via Pixabay.com.
There are many good teachers who do what they’re hired to do — they teach. But then there are the teachers who elevate their profession to the next level. These are the teachers who inspire. They bring their own experiences and wisdom to the classroom and, rather than telling their students what to do (and how to do it), they teach them how to think. They teach them to ask questions, and to search for their own answers. They teach them to be present, engaged, and aware. Leading by their own example, these teachers inspire their young charges to go out into the world and pay it forward, by inspiring and empowering others.
These are the teachers who treat their classroom like a garden in the making. They plant the seeds. They nurture the garden, recognizing and appreciating the unique nature of each flower. Then, they stand back and watch with wonder, as the garden takes on a shape and character of its own.
It is this brand of high caliber teachers who we, as adults remember with fondness, respect and profound gratitude… years, and even decades later.
I can count my most inspirational teachers on one hand. There were five. These men and women, unbeknownst to them, had a great impact on my life.
And, yes, I am going to name names.
In elementary school (Grade 6): Philip Ploplis, of Lithuanian descent, had just graduated from Teacher’s College. We were his very first students and he was our Homeroom teacher. He treated us as a classroom of individuals and spent considerable one-on-one time with us, in an effort to bring out the best in each student. He wanted to prepare us for high school and beyond. He knew our weaknesses and our strengths. He was one of the few adults who actually cared about what we thought, what we dreamed of doing, and he took great pains to guide us in the right direction, so that our interests could take shape. Thank you, Mr. Ploplis.
In high school: Barbara Friand, an ex-nun and free-thinker, was my Humanities teacher. She taught us to embrace diversity, to open up our minds, and to recognize that there were infinite possibilities. She taught us hope, respect, and she taught us how to listen — to each other and to ourselves. Most importantly, she taught us to understand — with complete certainty — that although each of us is different, we are, in fact, all the same. We are humans. This woman leads my list of five inspirational teachers. I would have loved to have known her in my adult years. Oh, the interesting conversations we would have had! Miss Friand, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you.
In college: Victor Garaway, a professional dancer from South Africa, taught us theatre. At this time in my life, I was actually quite shy and quiet. He was a mercurial teacher who intimidated most students, but not me. I realized that his Svengali-like method of teaching had one objective: to dare us to excel and to weed out the ones who didn’t even want to bother. It is in his class that I finally found my voice. And I’ve been speaking ever since. Thank you, Professor Garaway.
In university: John Hellman, a quiet but passionate intellectual, taught me history. Specifically, the history of European intellectual thought. More specifically, he opened my mind (and heart) to the world of 20th century French intellectuals like Jean-Paul Sartre, Emmanuel Mounier, Albert Camus, Simone Weil, and Simone de Beauvoir. This is the world I feel most comfortable in … a generation of philosophical thinkers who, in turn, have had a major influence on the way I think, on how I view the world. Merci infiniment, Prof. Hellman.
Finally, in Graduate school: Linda Ghan, a quiet yet intense writer and author, taught me to write better. In her creative writing class, students dissected their work — amicably. The objective was to embrace our individual writing styles, but fine-tune our skills. She shared her wisdom and knowledge with us and, with her guidance, we learned the important art of self-editing. It truly is an art. Clearly, I haven’t mastered it yet. It’s a work in progress. Thank you, Linda.
These are the teachers who most inspired me.
Who has inspired you? Share your stories with us!
On a different note (perhaps not so different, as Barbara Friand would probably say), I came across an interesting website that provides information and classroom materials for teachers to teach their students about important world issues like hunger and peace. Interested teachers and parents should check out The Hunger Site at:
It’s Day 3 of my Help Fight Hunger book promotion. Hope springs eternal.
Image via theguardian (photo credit: Alamy).
“We all grow up with the weight of history on us. Our ancestors dwell in the attics of our brains as they do in the spiraling chains of knowledge hidden in every cell of our bodies.”
In the 1960s and 1970s, a generation of young men and women coined the term “I’m trying to find myself.” This quest for self-discovery (often stimulated by the use of soothing “herbal” supplements) was an earnest attempt, on their part, to find answers to such questions as “Who am I, really?” and “What should I do with my life?” For some, the questions remain unanswered… which is probably why so many Baby Boomers suffer mid-life crises.
It is my firm belief that the answers to who we are (and why we are the way we are) – as individuals, as a society, or as a nation – can only be found by learning more about our history. To understand the present and attempt to mold the future, one must have a clear understanding of the past.
To find out who we are, we must begin at the beginning. Where do we come from? Who are the people who came before us, and before them?
What are our roots?
If you like puzzles, as I do, this is when it starts to get interesting. Tracing your family roots is like meandering through the pages of an epic story, only it’s your story. Your history. It can be fascinating, enlightening and sometimes even shocking. When you begin a genealogical study, you could very well open up a Pandora’s box full of surprises. My theory is: it’s always better to know, than not to know.
I’m in the process of completing my maternal family tree. There are still a few missing pieces, but I hope to fill in the blanks soon. Once that is complete, I will begin the research on my paternal roots.
And then, I will have chronicled the story of my life – from past to present.
My only wish is that I could have met each of these men and women whose blood courses through my veins, whose facial features I bear, and whose character traits I may have.
I guess I’ll have to wait until I’m on the other side.
Oh, what a reunion we shall have!
Some links that you may find interesting:
- Canada Archives Search
- International Genealogical Index
- Roots Web – World Connect Project
Image via sherrymonahan.com.
“I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crises. The great point is to bring them the real facts.”
— Abraham Lincoln
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Excerpt from “Casualties of the (Recession) Depression“ (last two sentences in the Conclusions):
“The bottom line is: if there are middle-class Americans who continue to experience economic hardship, then the problem still exists. If they are not in the process of recovering, then we are not “in a recovery.”
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(Copyright © 2013 Heather Joan Marinos – All Rights Reserved).