For the past three years on Yom Kippur I have spent an hour or two sitting next to the Wissahickon Creek in Valley Green, Philadelphia, in an effort to reflect upon what I have done in the past year and what I will do in the future. Obviously my thoughts drifted between personal goals and professional goals as well as the people I've harmed along the way (without malice, of course). But one major theme connected between them both: vulnerability.
Vulnerability is a hard state to be in: it could promote help or harm; it could allow danger or love. But, more importantly, it allows the possibility of positivity.
One of the other things I did on Yom Kippur was watch a TED Talk from a woman named Dr. Brené Brown, a self-titled "storyteller researcher" from the University of Houston. Her talk focused on how vulnerability can bring us closer to each other and allow great things to happen. This is a lesson in which I take heart in this time of seasonal change and the beginning of a new school year. We each need to be humbled by our students as well as teach our students to be graceful in their interactions. Making a mistake is part and parcel to learning so we should demonstrate that. We should celebrate those who persevere and show the "grit" that makes great learners. More importantly, we should celebrate the tiny voice in the back of the room that will try again tomorrow.
Interestingly enough, a new close friend I've made told me about the sermon Rabbi Marc Katz of Congregation Beth Elohim gave at Kol Nidre services at the start of Yom Kippur. He references Dr. Brown's research and I think concludes these ideas well enough to be the end of this blog post:
Take risks with your heart. Embrace mistakes. Let yourself love deeper. Laugh harder. If you do, you’ll be more present, more available, and more engaged with the people around you, with yourself, and with God. Then you might live out the ideal of our ancient author of the Hineini prayer:
Kol tzarut v’ra’ut, hafach na lanu…k’sason u’lisimcha. L’chayim u’lishalom.
That through our fears and affliction we find joy, life, and peace.
May we each find ways to be vulnerable and help our students do the same.