I have a drama group composed of mothers. Today, one of the women, who is vivacious and full of life, mentioned how much she loved to talk to people. You may think of a chic and urban career woman who is able to easily strike up a conversation with the people sitting beside her at a café. A woman who is able to walk up to someone living on the street and have a conversation. A woman so tactful that instead of giving the man, who is clearly hungry, the food she has in her hand like a charitable act, she instead says “These cookies are delicious but I have too much, would you like to share them with me?” in order not to hurt his pride. A woman who always stands at an equal distance to everyone’s life story due to her belief that all humans are valuable. A woman who can tiptoe her way around the world of the resentful, disgruntled, and angry, to sit in the corner and listen with an open heart. A woman who is able to find out that the man on the street was once a surgeon who was subject to slander. A woman who is granted a new surprise with every person she meets.
Of course, the same woman is also good friends with the waste collectors who clean up her neighborhood. She knows all their names and stories. One day, while with her son (who she believes hasn’t been educated enough about not throwing trash on the street) she goes up to the collectors and says, “Aren’t you tired, give us the brooms so we can have a go.” Her son, who is embarrassed by the sudden proposal and worries that someone might see them, is induced with courage by his mother and soon the two are trying to clean the streets. A cigarette butt here, a melting ice cream cone there, and in the distance, a plastic bag flying in the wind…and the day’s lesson: “Oh man it’s so hard sweeping the streets.” Since that day, her son never once threw his trash on the street again. “Was it not a good idea?” laughs the woman after telling us all the story. “He should learn to never look down on anyone and to never patronize anyone’s work.”
Education is expensive. Or we’re used to believing that education is expensive. We’ve been trained to believe it. At least two foreign languages, a musical instrument, a sport, a science project with a future, admiration, gratitude, stars, and applause…Life is brand new every day. Yet our prerequisites for success are so cliché and antiquated. Whereas this mother reminded me once more today how simple, uncomplicated, and improvised education can be. It’s enough to go on the street to introduce ourselves and our children to the world. If we’re open to explore and learn, the streets are full of people, people are full of experiences, and experiences are full of stories. And the only grade that’s important in life is the final grade.