Sydney J. Harris, a popular syndicated columnist from the Chicago Daily News, once said “The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.” I couldn’t agree more. If you want to know the remedy to the ills of today’s children, it’s shattering their mirrors!
In our high school program, Leaders by Example, we ask ninth grade students to sit facing each other. We then place a mirror in the hands of one of the students and ask them to look in the mirror while holding it in front of the student sitting across from them. We ask, “Who do you see?” Their reply, “Myself.” We then ask, “Who do you not see?” Their reply, “The person in front of me.” The students ‘get it’ instantly…living in the mirror is blinding.
In our gated communities, we place a mirror in the hands of children and tell them “It’s all about you.” They begin living life focused on themselves and what the world is going to do for them. In the mirror they can’t see others and they can’t see others looking at them. An explanation for the rampant selfishness in our privileged teenagers. The wrecked cars. Recreational drug addiction. Lack of motivation. Sense of entitlement. Living in the mirror, children can’t see how their actions affect those around them. Living in the mirror, life doesn’t work. They can’t find their way in a world who will not serve them.
In our ghettos, we place a mirror in the hands of children and tell them “This is all you’ll ever be.” They are expected to raise themselves. They look in the mirror and can’t see the world beyond themselves. They can’t see the possibilities of who they can become. It’s easy for them to believe they will never become more than what they can ‘see’ in front of them, which is nothing. Stolen bicycles. Recreational drug use. Lack of motivation. Sense of entitlement. I know more about this life than most would think. My mother grew up in this community, but found her way out when her mirror was shattered in junior high and she discovered there was more to life than what she could see growing up in poverty. (I’ll share more about my mother’s story later…she’s the reason I treasure my clothesline.)
So, you see, (pun intended) kids growing up in the mirror only see themselves whether they’re growing up in the gated communities or the ghetto. It’s all the same. They’re looking for what the world is going to do for them. If they live in those mirrors long enough, they become lost in themselves. The longer they live in their mirrors, the fewer answers they find and the more flaws they see. One of our tenth grade students commented in class one day, “You can’t see where you’re going if you’re living in the mirror.” Another said, “If you’re living in the mirror, you can’t see the window.” They were both right…