The voice in the whisper: your name belongs in the thank you.

That’s right!

Without teachers, how can we dream?

I think it’s time for a little story about the power of a great fifth grade teacher and Martin Luther King, Jr.

I grew up in a household that talked.  At age five I remember lots of post-dinner storytelling about when my parents were children.  At age ten we had kind of moved on to discussions of politics, Dukakis and all.

At age ten I was highly involved in a pretty amazing school year with Mrs. Finney, one of my most memorable teachers, even if we didn’t have her for the entire school year.  She was amazing, she treated us with respect, she encouraged curiosity and laughter.  She cared and was way smart.  Until this day, I still identify myself as part of the Mrs. Finney Funny Bunch.  We made puffy-painted sweatshirts to wear on her last day as a teacher.  She ended up working for the district because she was so dang intelligent and I still miss her red poofy hair and funny anecdotes.

At age ten I was probably as awkward and slightly outspoken as I am now.  I wanted to be president of the United States and was (of course) obsessed with MC Hammer.  For Mrs. Finney’s class we each wrote essays for MLK day and mine was somehow a poem combining the “I have a dream” speak and how my uncle who was quite involved in the civil rights movement (something that had been discussed at the table, I’m sure).  It was probably slightly rad, historically incorrect and really weird.  To tell you the truth, I don’t really remember what I wrote but I do know that I was very proud of my uncle.  I think there was some kind of parade or maybe it was just our class that did it.  It’s hazy what all happened that day but what I do remember is that Mrs. Finney made that day really important to us 5th graders.  That Martin Luther King, Jr. still stands out to me today.  There was nothing ambiguous as to why we had a day off from school because of this man who had, in some way and many ways changed our lives before our parents had even met.

(When Nelson Mandela was freed from prison a few years later I looked up Mrs. Finney’s number in the phone book and called her to celebrate with her.)

Teachers are the catalysts for dream building.  What I’ve been reflecting on, especially after finishing the One Day on Earth video for project1979 is that teaching is happening all of the time.  It was really important to me to have a great 5th grade teacher who highlighted the importance of living life nobly and on purpose.  Right now, it’s really important to me to put things out in the world that are of value to others.  Project1979 is taking a long time because besides being a performance, I’m masterminding an experience where people can learn and teach others just by their shared experiences and amazing abilities.   The website is much more involved than I envisioned (PS: Thank you, oh web designer for your amazing job).  This whole thing requires daily patience.  On the more treacherous days I figure, if Mrs. Finney could be patient with my rambunctious self, I can be patient with a rambunctious project which is part of a painstaking, delicious learning process.

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see
the whole staircase.”

-Martin Luther King

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one amazing teacher.

Mrs. Finney opened her heart and intellect to ten-year-olds.

Maybe it’s good to ask ourselves once in awhile the questions:  “Who are we teaching? What are we teaching?”

I believe that most of us can attest to how our teachers (friends, mothers, co-workers, mentors, professors) gifted us with the opportunity to live life fully, maybe a little bit enlightened.  Today, we are the generation that has the power to teach those we come in contact every day, the lessons we’ve learned in the past three decades.  We are leading, be it in our Running Man, parenting, technological, artistic, culinary, marketing, friend, spouse, woodworking, gardening, beer-making (and so on and so on and so on) skilz.  The challenge is seeing ourselves in that way and taking steps to fully embrace our gifts so those around us can follow suit.

That’s right!

P.S.  For all of you real, bonified teachers out there:  THANK YOU for your patience and service.  And a big thank you to all of the rest of you who have rocked my (and others) world but just being your lovely selves.  Keep it up!

5 Responses to “The voice in the whisper: your name belongs in the thank you.”
  1. the Dude says:

    Your uncle was the Man. Still is.

  2. Jessica says:

    Alice, I smile ear to ear and tear up all at the same time when I think about Mrs. Finney. What an unconventional angel she was! Thanks for reminding me! And for the record, I totally thought you were going to be President of the United States!

    • project1979 says:

      Awww, Jess, you are so sweet! I’m not sure why wanted to be president-it seems funny to me now. I am so glad you smiled at the memory! Wasn’t she a gift? Wish I could be back in touch with her to thank her. Thanks for reading!

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