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This I Believe Essays 1.doc

This I Believe Essays 1.doc

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Published by Danika Barker
This I Believe
This I Believe

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Published by: Danika Barker on Jul 01, 2013
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ESSAY #1Grace Is a GiftLaura Durham - Salt Lake City, UtahAs heard on The Bob Edwards Show, December 24, 2010It doesn’t always make sense to me but when ambiguities such as grace and love manifestthemselves, I’m moved by the clarity they bring.The spring I was in the third grade, my teacher planned activities to celebrate the season:For weeks I looked forward to making treats and dying eggs. I remembered telling mymom how much fun it was going to be, and I imagined what colors and designs I wouldchoose. Before the big day, my teacher told us to come to class on Friday with ahollowed out egg. We were also told to bring our spelling test signed by a parent, and if we didn’t, the teacher warned, we would sit out from the activities.At nine years old, I was the perfect student. I was studious, I was obedient, and I wasresponsible. So when I forgot to bring my spelling test that Friday, I was devastated. Iknew what the consequence would be. When my class jumped from their chairs to collectart supplies, I sat still in my desk examining my perfect, hollowed out egg, fighting theinevitable tears.It wasn’t long before my teacher pulled me aside. She knelt down and told me I should join the rest of the class. With tears in her eyes, she told me I could bring my spelling teston Monday. And then she gave me a hug.I couldn’t believe it. My disappointment disappeared with this unexpected gift.Twenty years later, I still remember this moment. Even though I fell short of what wasrequired of me, my teacher graced me with love and understanding. She could have stoodher ground and let me sit out as an example to the other students, but she knew punishingme for this small mistake wouldn’t teach me a new lesson. The lesson I learned that daywas how much grace can lift someone’s spirit.Yet, I seem to have a hard time grasping grace in my life. I sometimes subscribe to theidea of karma: what goes around comes around. But then I remember balancing a behavioral checkbook is detrimental to my happiness. If I’m constantly keeping count of what I feel I’m entitled to, I may never be satisfied. If I’m blessed beyond what I deserveI might never feel worthy. I must remind myself that I know better. Not everyone is punished for breaking the rules just like not everyone is rewarded for their efforts. Lifemay not be fair, but when I think about it, more often than not, I’m on the fortunate sideof the imbalance. And this moves me to offer the same grace to others.I believe in being gracious to others and I believe in accepting others’ graciousnesswhether I’ve earned it or not. Sometimes you are blessed simply because someone lovesyou. And that is why grace is a gift—not a reward.
 
ESSAY #2Life Is a Spiritual StruggleJoseph Laycock - Brighton, MassachusettsAs heard on The Bob Edwards Show, November 5, 2010Photo by Jessi Venable“Just reach around the neck like this, and apply pressure.”Over the din of boxing gloves pounding against leather bags, I struggle to hear thisBrazilian explain yet another way to choke someone unconscious. This is a martial artsgym. Most of the regulars are amateur fighters with dreams of going professional. Whenthey’re not here, some of them work as firefighters or bouncers. I’m definitely the onlyschoolteacher in the room.People use the term “at-risk” to describe my students. The old term, “inner-city kids,” isno longer politically correct. They are predominately low-income, black and feared. Werequire them to come to school with backpacks made of clear plastic to keep them fromconcealing weapons.My students take interest in my training. Sometimes I’ll enter the classroom with bruisesor a slight limp from the gym. In world history, I’ll discuss the cultural significance of thefighting styles I study. I explain that in Thai kickboxing, the eight striking weapons — fists, shins, elbows and knees — represent the eight-fold path of the Buddha. I describehow Brazilian jujitsu has more improvisation than Japanese martial arts, which reflectsdifferent cultural attitudes towards tradition.Every class asks me the same questions, “Have you ever beat anyone up?” And, “Whyare you a teacher instead of a professional fighter?” When I tell them the truth — that Ihave never been in a fight and have no aspirations to go professional — I get a range of reactions from disappointment to accusations of cowardice.“So why do you do it,” they always ask.I believe that life is a spiritual struggle. My battle is not against another fighter butagainst the unjust and apathetic system that is attacking my students.I get up at 6:30 a.m. and work at least a 10-hour day. I take students who have seriousgaps in their learning — some of them can barely read — and I do my best to help themgraduate from high school. Our school is so old that its walls are actually beginning toshift apart at the foundations. Because of over-crowding, I have to load my teachingmaterials onto a cart that I push from room to room. There is no point in pretending thatthis is an easy job.In martial arts, laziness, apathy and despair will cost you the fight. As a teacher, thesetraits are deadly for at-risk students. Politicians and textbook companies now define whatlearning is, and school has increasingly become a gauntlet of standardized tests. The
 
result has been a soaring drop-out rate. In this climate, students need a teacher who is stillwilling to fight.When I work the heavy bag until I feel faint, or have a 300-pound stranger pin my face tothe mat with his knee, I am cultivating the strength of will necessary to make adifference. Like everyone else in the gym, I am training for battle. My battle is every day.
 Joseph Laycock is now working on his doctorate in religion and society at BostonUniversity. He started studying martial arts in college and furthered his training inThailand.

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