As I have written here several times, I turned 50 in May and have been reflecting and writing about the lessons that I have learned in the past 50 years.
I have shared with Care2 readers that these lessons often come from surprising places, including my garden. These life lessons have also come from sources you’d expect, too, especially from my father, who not only taught me how to be more green, but who “walks the walk” by his own example.
While I was taking my walk this morning, I passed by the elementary school that I actually went to as a child, and got to thinking about some of the things I learned while in school. Some of them are obvious, but some aren’t. Yet when I reflect on them, they make complete sense now. Some are strictly green lessons, while some are much deeper than that.
Here are a few of these lessons:
- Reuse. Even way back when I was in elementary school, resources were scarce. I remember we were told to make sure we kept all of our materials in our desks, our crayons, our paper, etc. and not to waste them and to keep track of them. Not only did it teach me to reuse things, but it also taught me to be responsible for those things.
- Recycle. Before the days of recycling bins, I remember newspaper drives when I was in the 2nd and 3rd grades. These were big events, and everyone was encouraged to bring as many papers in as they could. Even though I lived across the street from my elementary school, it seemed like miles hauling them in my wagon to the playground so they could be added to the huge pile already there. Not only did the papers get recycled, but it was a way to raise some money for school activities, since recyclers used to pay a lot of money for them.
- Share everything. If you did, you were a good citizen and a good member of your community. If you didn’t, you were not. We learned that we should not be greedy and take everything for ourselves, and that it was our civic duty to share. We not only learned to share material things, but our opinions and our knowledge, which leads to further knowledge by accepting and giving feedback. In my opinion, if you want to live happily with and among other people, this lesson is more valuable then anything else.
- People are different and diverse and we need to get used to that. Going to public school teaches you how to get along with different people—all different types of people. I was exposed to people from diverse cultures, different socioeconomic backgrounds, varied education levels and abilities, as well as to those with similar backgrounds. And I feel it made me a more well-rounded and balanced person.
- Play fair. I am not sure if, as children, we even get how much difference this makes to our lives, but I remember hearing it over and over again, from the playground to the classroom. Fair play teaches so many things, and it reinforces all of the other lessons: you need to share, be a contributing part of the community, be a team member, and wait your turn. It basically teaches you the social skills that you need to get through the rest of your life.