Sunday, September 12, 2010

a lesson from ralph waldo

she was sitting there by herself when i came home. my daughter. she looked glum and in a pensive mood.

"why are you looking so distraught?" i asked her.

she looked at me. smiled her shy smile. it was a sad smile. is this correct? is there such a thing as a sad smile? but isn't a smile always associated with happiness? probably it's better to call it a half-smile. there, sounded better. suggesting happiness but there's this hint of being incomplete. dissatisfaction.

"what happened?" i asked further. i always make it point that lines of communication between my daughter and me are always open. i need this. i want her to know that although i am her father i could also be a good friend. that i am always ready to listen. i always remember what i've been told some years back -- it's always easy to hear, what is hard is to listen.

"i'm disappointed with the grade i received." she finally said," i was expecting a really good grade for that last project i submitted, but the professor saw otherwise. but now that i've thought about it, it is really my fault.

that's really not the one i originally picked to submit. it's just that when i heard my classmates' criticisms on my first pick i immediately shelved it and worked on this one which i submitted. i really liked that first one. ggrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!! i should not have listened to them.

and you know, dad, one of my other classmates had submitted her project which ran along the concept of my original pick and guess what? our professor liked it much! oh, i should have submtted the one that i most liked."

"well, you'll know better next time," i told her. "and don't be disappointed that somebody else shone on that particular time. remember, there are people who are like the sun. they are inherently bright. at most times, they are the ones that are immediately noticed. they shine at once. but there are others that are like the moon. they need a special time to shine, to show their glow. but when they do, they shine differently. like the moon which lends the night her own special beauty and affects us in her unique way."

she smiled a full smile this time.

"now, i need your help on this," i continued," please google 'self reliance by ralph waldo emerson' on your computer."

she did so. in a short while, her search returned several ralph waldo emerson webpage links. she chose one and immediately emerson's famous essay displayed on the screen. she browsed over the paragraphs. i just stood quietly behind her. after a while she smiled a full smile again. i knew that she saw what i wanted her to see on that essay. i asked her to read it aloud as i pointed to the words -- " to believe your own thought, to believe that what is true in your private heart is true for all men .... a man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within .... abide by our spontaneous impression with good humored inflexibility then most when the whole cry of voices is on the other side ... "

"from now on, Papa, i will trust myself," she confided,"even if my classmates say otherwise. i will trust what my inner self says. and i know that by doing this i will not find myself regretting not doing what i think is right."

i smiled my full smile.

and i know that ralph waldo is also smiling his full smile. he had helped another person gain self reliance.

i can still recall one of the lines in that essay -- "else tomorrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time. and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another ..."

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