The past six months have been a journey. After working as an educator in different programs for twenty years I decided to take a sabbatical, learning some new skills, while searching for a new path forward. The path may lead back to the classroom full-time next year or it might lead to assisting other educators by sharing experiences and mentoring. In trying to discover my next step, I decided to look toward the past and how I arrived in early childhood education. After searching and reflecting, I discovered the reason I work with children---what I believe about children and why I work to serve families---it is because of Jack.
The search for meaning, our motivations and our actions is always connected to “The Why”. The “What” we do is easy to define, but “The Why” we do our work is where we find our true purpose, Jack represents “The Why” for me. Who is Jack? He lived as an educator himself---who loved people, loved his profession and shared his joy for recreation with thousands of college students, including me. Fresh out of high school, I attended college for a short time, and then decided working and making money had more appeal. Securing a good job, I made a good living and figured I was living happily ever after.
A few years passed and I realized I needed a challenge. I decided to go back to college and pursue a degree in my spare time. Not having a specific course of study in mind, I attended a community college and studied general education courses, tried a few different majors for fun and earned enough credits to transfer to a four-year college. Arriving at my new school, I wondered what major to choose. At the time I raced triathlon for fun so physical education became my major of choice.
Physical education was a great major, so popular no classes were available my first semester. Not sure of my next step, I visited a counselor in student services. I discovered in the same department existed a related field called Recreation and Leisure Studies. The course offerings sounded similar to physical education, so I decided to try some courses and this is where I met Jack.
When I first met Jack---I felt nervous. His course was my first course at the university and I was concerned about completing the work. Now I can’t remember the course title, but when I sat down for the first class he said, “Hi I'm Jack and this is Jack’s grass class” as he started telling a story. The course was about grass and park maintenance but in reality so much more. The course represented a life spent serving others through recreation and sharing the love for the power of play in people's lives.
I had never met someone with that much passion for anything. I switched my major to recreation the following week. The next three years I learned so much from Jack. I learned about his joy from facilitating play for others, how play represented a powerful tool to help people discover happiness in life and how play could transform the lives of people with physical and mental challenges. I listened to hundreds of stories from Jack about his career and what he witnessed play do for people.
The last time I spent with Jack was on an island during a trip my senior year. A group of students traveled 40 miles off the coast of California to a small island to learn about recreation in the ocean environment. The students learned about many things that week. We learned about the animals and plants on the island. We learned about the sea life below the ocean surface and students learned how to fish for our dinner. What I learned was how to approach life, about being in service to others and how to live in the moment. I listened to many of Jack's stories for the last time and even though I had listened to the stories many times before each one filled my heart with hope for the future.
My career lives at a crossroads or so I believed six months ago. Where should I go and what should I do? Taking the time to really look at what I care about and why I started in recreation and child development helped me to rediscover the why. I practice play and work in child development to pass on the legacy of Jack, a person who gave to all he met and promoting an ideal that play is still important in a time where people believe society is too modern or sophisticated for the simple things in life. But the simple joys of playing, being in nature, exploring, and owning time to pursue your passions is what makes life. Thanks Jack, I miss your wisdom, your smile, your kindness and your stories.
Who have you met in life that had a positive impact on your future?