I've been thinking about steps lately. I received an Up wristband for Christmas and I use it to track my activity throughout the day. I've read that 10,000 steps is a reasonable goal so I'm paying attention to the number of steps that I'm averaging each day. I'm a runner so on the days that I head outdoors for a run, it's pretty easy to achieve my goal. However, on some of these wintery, sub zero degree days, I have to be intentional about getting those steps in which I suppose is the whole point of the wristband. Last Saturday morning, I was lounging around the house, sipping coffee, reading and just hanging out. It was a really nice day until I checked on my steps. I had only taken 300 by noon. My carefree reverie was shattered by the compulsion to get out there and start stepping. But wait a minute. While 10,000 steps is an accomplishment, maybe there's something to be said for a quiet morning at home. That may be just the thing to fuel the body and mind for the steps to come.
Fast forward to this Saturday, another chilly but sunny morning. I wanted to take my dogs out for a little fresh air. When I get the leashes out they jump around and bark like we're going to a party. We have a long driveway and my dogs are kind of wimpy when it comes to temperatures below 10 degrees so my plan was to just walk them up and down the road for 15 minutes. They enjoyed being out and once we went back indoors they seemed pretty content although we had only taken about 2,000 steps. Once again, while it's interesting to track how far I'm going, maybe I can learn something from my dogs. They really didn't care how far we went, they were just happy to get to go.
Part of my daily routine at school is to visit each of the classrooms and collect library books. It helps me get in some steps but it also gives me a unique perspective on what happens in our building. I typically stop by each classroom in the morning and it's a bit like being a mouse in the corner. I get a glimpse into the daily routines of our teachers and it's often inspiring. On Tuesday morning as I was strolling past the kindergarten, I overheard our kindergarten teacher telling his students how happy he was to see them. He carefully told them about the plans for learning in the day and he made it sound like a grand adventure. I'm so glad we have someone like him in front of our little ones modeling kindness and respect. As I continued my rounds to collect books, I walked into a 2nd grade classroom and was impressed by the little community of learning taking place inside. It may have been 10 below zero outside but it was cozy and warm in this classroom where a variety of learning activities were taking place. The teacher had created an environment where the kids were comfortably engaged as they quietly worked together in groups. If I hadn't slowed down to observe for a moment I would have missed this inspiring glimpse into their day.
All this stepping gives me time to think and maybe I think too much. Lately the glaring headlines filled with bad news and bad behavior fill my thoughts. It leaves me feeling at a loss. It's easy to become discouraged. What can I do in such a world? Then I think about all those individual steps in the day that eventually add up to 10,000 or more. I gain inspiration from a kindergarten teacher who models compassion and caring. I'm encouraged by a 2nd grade teacher who shows up every day working to create a caring and comfortable learning community for her students. I love J.R.R. Tolkien's quote "It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love." Things such as these are what I need to direct my thoughts and my steps. If each one of us takes small steps of kindness and respect and move in a forward direction we will really start to go someplace. These are the kind of steps worth taking and they will add up to something bigger than the headlines.
This week I've been reading Samson in the snow to the kids during library. It is the story of a wooly mammoth named Samson who wishes for a friend. A gentle giant who is tending to a dandelion patch and pulling weeds. At this point in the story the students like to point out that dandelions are weeds. My response is that Samson must think they are beautiful anyway. As Samson is weeding, a little bird comes along and asks if she can take some of his flowers to give to a friend who is having a bad day. Samson responds by giving her three of his best dandelions. She flies away leaving Samson to ponder what it would be like to have such a friend. As he ponders he becomes sleepy and falls asleep to dream of the color yellow. When he awakes he finds that a blizzard has blown in and turned the world white. He is instantly worried about the little bird who is ill suited for the extreme weather. Concerned, he decides to go look for her. As he travels he happens upon a little mouse who also has been caught up without shelter in the unexpected storm. Samson shelters the mouse as he braves the snow and cold to find the little bird. His resolve and compassion payoff as he finds the little bird just in time. The blizzard ends, the sun returns and Samson has found two new friends. Philip Stead is a favorite author of mine. The themes in his stories illustrate kindness, compassion and an appreciation of small and ordinary things. A wonderful model of finding beauty in the ordinary.