An open letter to my students and friends:
Be good to yourself. Enjoy life…and be happy. Simple as that. No distracting jargon. No gobbledygook. No costly hours of non-productive counseling. No “can you top this?!” misery groups to prolong and exaggerate your problems deriving from negative, self-destructive habits. No excuses. No crapola.
Just open your eyes and ears and hearts. Step into the sunshine and the rain; be refreshed. Cleanse your stagnating or sagging spirit…alone, or with sources of positive and caring support, i.e. good writers, life-wish support groups, friends, loved ones who already understand and live healthy lives. Avoid negative, troublesome, sick sources who can spread the destructiveness of their death-wish.
open your arms wide to the world. Close your mouth, and listen. Listen with al of your senses; listen from within. Look around you and see life as it is, and how it can be. Think. Learn. Be curious. Discover. Appreciate. Consider the many possibilities of what life has to offer, and what you can do in return. Explore. Attempt. Don’t open your mouth. Not until, and when, you have something worth saying…an intelligent question, an observation based on what you see and are learning, a kind word for someone, a pleasant greeting from the heart, or a simple declaration of appreciation.
Just think of how quiet and peaceful our world would be, if folks all embarked on this simple and wholesome adventure. My, my, my. What remarkable changes we might see! Can you imagine what might happen?
If you can learn to be good to yourself (and not at the expense of others, mind you!), the logical progression would be a tendency to be good to others. If you decide to be honest with yourself, the possible effect would be an inclination to be generally honest with others. If you make it your own responsibility to live moderately and well, the natural consequence would be a disinclination to make excuses for your own errors in decision-making and behavior, instead passing responsibility for your actions on to others. Does all of this sound possible? Does it appeal to you? Does it seem worth trying?
THE KEY TO SEVENTEEN: A TYPICAL LESSON
Just for fun…and practice…a typical lesson enjoyed by my high school students of English. Join us!
“The Key to Seventeen”
I rummaged in my pocket for whatever I could find,
Just feeling kinda lonely with the wrong things on my mind.
And there among the hair pins, the pennies and the dimes…
I came across a small jade key for which I write this rhyme.
For she had been a maiden
So many years ago,
Though still within her gentle heart
There burned a fervent glow.
At seventeen the sweetheart
Of a lad of tender ways,
She simply had been unaware
Of real love these days.
Unwisely did she scorn his smile
And chose instead another
With whom she had to marry,
For she would be a mother.
Gone the possibility
Of being loved with care,
For judgment weak at such a time
Was like a foolish dare.
She wasted precious years gone by
Without a man’s real caring,
But for the son she bore so well
Whose friendship she’s now sharing.
Gone at last the wedding band,
The bonds which held her fast…
And healed are the deepest wounds
Inflicted through the past.
We see her now, a maiden,
Still poised upon the brink…
And now she tends her garden
Of youthful blooms I think.
She teaches them to first explore
The depth of inner beauty,
For her a journey filled with care…
Both privilege and duty.
At seventeen they question
What lies behind each door
And wonder…since she’s been there…
Can they perhaps do more?
To know themselves for who they are,
To know their inner heart,
To first develop, then mature,
Before they wisely start…
To open up the first right door
And choose with eyes that see
The choice they make will be the one
That fits this small jade key.
1. Do you understand clearly these terms in context?
2. Specific comprehension:
- a)Describe the opening situation.
b)What weak judgment had the maiden exhibited, in her earlier years?
c)What action did she take, to improve her life?
d)What is the outcome?
e)What is the maiden’s current situation?
(by using strong positive judgment or decision-making)
3. Personal response:
a)What do you think is symbolized by the small jade key?
b)What is the significance of the title, “Key to Seventeen”?
c)How do you relate this poem to your life or viewpoint?
d)What does “door” symbolize to you?
e)What do you think prompted the writer to share this poem with you?
4. Vocabulary growth: choose any three terms, and use each one in a sentence, thereby indicating your understanding of how to use these terms.
Bonus: Write your own question involving some facet of this poem.
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