Our 2012 Parent Practicum* season begins with an idea: “There should be no realm of human endeavor from which you feel yourself excluded.” At first glance, you might pass over this sentence as inspirational fluff, the kind often paired with images of kittens hanging from tightropes or salmon swimming upstream.
Today, I challenge you to take a second look.
Should—This is an auxiliary (helping) verb telling us more about the verb “be.” Specifically, “should” is a modal verb (one that only exists in auxiliary form). It describes what is right or correct, and it also recommends action in order to achieve what the sentence says “should” be. It expresses obligation and expectation: we have a responsibility not to feel excluded.
No realm—As an adjective, “no” means “not any.” Think about it. What are some realms of human endeavor? Sending rockets into space. Giving a speech before Congress. Performing in one of Shakespeare’s tragedies. Cooking a seven-course meal. Solving a differential equation. Building a house. Weaving a tapestry. Painting a still life. Playing one of Beethoven’s sonatas.
Are you backpedaling yet?
Let’s draw a useful distinction here. I may never paint the next Mona Lisa. Playing professional basketball is not part of my ten-year plan. However, I can learn the mechanics of accurately shooting a free throw. I can learn to draw the basic lines and strokes that Da Vinci used.
Each of us is gifted in certain areas, and furthermore, we may struggle against physical or mental limitations all our lives. That doesn’t mean we have to feel excluded from a particular realm of human endeavor. (See below.)
Human endeavor—When I was typing this sentence, my brain was tempted to switch out the less familiar “endeavor” for the more familiar “experience.” What a difference that would make! An endeavor is a strenuous effort, an attempt. It comes from the Middle English “endeveren,” which comes from the phrase “putten in devoir,” which means “to make an effort, assume responsibility.” By contrast, “experience” refers to actual participation or acquired knowledge: the end, not the journey.
I think about Helen Keller. Deaf and blind, she nonetheless made strenuous effort throughout her life not to be constrained by her physical limitations. She “heard” Franklin D. Roosevelt speak by touching his lips. She felt the vibrations of the great violinist Jascha Heifetz. She endured frustration and struggle to graduate from college and become an international speaker. There was no realm of human effort beyond her reach.
Feel yourself excluded—Notice that the sentence does not say “from which you are excluded.” I do not want to minimize the challenges that we all face. Political upheaval, violence, persecution, poverty, and illness exclude many people around this nation and the world from the privileges we enjoy. We are called to be representatives of Christ in those situations, serving, healing, and restoring as we are able.
But whatever our circumstances, we ought to attempt to live fully and freely as children of God. Even though we may not accomplish (“experience”) something concrete in return for our efforts, we are still free to try (“endeavor”).
To say, “That’s not for me. I’m not a math person,” or “I could never learn Latin; I only do well with numbers” is to feel yourself excluded from a realm of human endeavor. Instead, we should say, “Math is difficult for me, but I will work hard to master basic arithmetic so that I can model determination for my nine-year-old daughter.” Or, “I love the beautiful order of mathematics, so I will work hard to understand the structure and order of language.”
Now, let’s put it all back together. Say it with me slowly: “There should be no realm of human endeavor from which you feel yourself excluded.”
Is that true in your life? In your schooling? More importantly, do you long for it to be true? If so, I encourage you to register for one of our *free* Parent Practicums. This summer, let’s continue to wrestle with this concept of Meeting the Challenge.
Let’s make an effort to replace the feeling of exclusion with one of delight.
* Visit our Event Calendar to find Parent Practicums in your area. Register online today!