As a retired secondary school teacher with nearly forty years of experience under my belt, I found myself yesterday (on the second hottest day of the year so far) back in the classroom again. I visited a wonderful secondary school not far from Worcester to join colleagues from other faith traditions in a 'Diversity Day' for 13/14 year olds. The idea, of course, was not to 'convert' but to inform and educate the young people about the incredible richness and variety of spiritual life in the contemporary UK - and also to demonstrate that although we may have different religious affiliations we all get along with each other just fine!
I arrived at the school with some trepidation: could I still 'hack it' in the classroom having been out of it for some years? I needn't have worried: the young people were delightful in every way. They were tired, it was nearly the end of term,and it was almost unbearably hot: nevertheless, they were warmly welcoming, interested,brimful of goodwill, passionate in their spirit of enquiry and very, very genuine. In particular (and refreshingly) they were far more interested in what might be called religious 'experience' ('what does the chanting sound like?', 'what do you think about when you meditate?', 'what do you use rosary beads for?' etc) than in points of 'doctrine'. Children really are the future, they have a passion for the true and the beautiful that cannot be quenched. Sounds naive and sentimental? I don't think so - it has the taste of the real. It is we adults who spend much of our time worrying about things which don't ultimately matter; young people (contrary to 'received wisdom') cut through the trivia to get to the heart. Long may they do so.
Not for the first time in my life as a teacher, the kids taught me far more than I taught them. Perhaps, hopefully, they may have 'caught' something of the fragrance of the Dharma from what I said and demonstrated: what they (along with their very dedicated teachers) did for me was to reinvigorate my sense of hope.There is a huge teaching in all this. A deep bow of gratitude to them all.
Namo Amida Bu.
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