In grade school, I had two teachers who each embodied different qualities: one, Mrs. Logan, was pure loving-kindness, and the other, Mrs. Wyman, was filled with anger and a need to control.* Both of them taught me human lessons beyond the classroom and had an effect on my life that I’m beginning to see more clearly now after all these years.
Mrs. Logan was my fourth grade teacher, and she was sweetness personified, always giving us interesting games to play between lessons as well as free time to read on our own (my favorite). She was extremely patient and listened attentively to our day-to-day life stories. She also told us about her own life and her grown daughter. In many ways, she was like a second mother to each of us, and everyone loved her. I cried at the end of the year when I said good-bye and later told my mother, “There will never be another Mrs. Logan.” She was my all-time favorite teacher, and I’ve never forgotten how genuinely loving she was to me.
Mrs. Wyman, on the other hand, scared me to death. When I was a shy first-grader, she grabbed me harshly by the shoulders one day in the lunchroom and hissed, “Next time you throw away the crusts of your sandwich, I’m going to make you take them out of the garbage and eat them.” In sixth grade, when I entered the art room (yes, she was the art teacher) as the bell was ringing, she proclaimed me late and made me stay after school and write “I will never be late again” over and over for an hour. Quiet, good student that I was, those two incidents both frightened and embarrassed me. And at the sixth grade level, it also filled me with outrage at being unjustly accused. (My locker had stuck and I was “late” because of that.)
So, right there, my life path was laid out before me: a peaceful warrior for both justice and love. In my twenties I became first a hippie flower child and then a political activist, later a radical feminist. Love was at the core of everything I believed in, a love that was inclusive of all peoples and the Earth. I had no patience with authority or hierarchy of any kind (what a surprise). Over the years, I watched as the patriarchal paradigm that we all grew up with slowly start to be challenged and disrupted by women and men alike. New options, based in freedom and equality, rose out of the growing awareness of each successive generation.
The old top-down structures still hang on, but something else is being born. Something circular and flowing and filled with life. I see myself in the students now who are standing up against violence and power politics. The heart of love continues in them in spite of the forces waged against it, and the people who have been wounded reach out in compassion to others who are suffering. The deeper truth is that those doing the wounding were also wounded themselves. They too are suffering. It is time for the cycle to be broken.
Looking back I can see the loving-kindness in Mrs. Wyman that she was unable to express because of her own core wounding. I no longer feel anger toward her but only empathy. And also, interestingly, gratitude. She helped me find my voice in the world. She, along with Mrs. Logan, helped me become who I am today. Every single person in our lives plays a role, one taken on before birth. When we can see life the way God sees it, we understand that there is only evolving, expanding awareness, only love. So let go of your grievances, and embrace gratitude instead. That one opening will liberate your soul from the constraints of all your stories about the past.