It is not enough to be busy: so are the ants. The question is: What are you busy about?
– Henry David Thoreau
I recently took a couple of daylong drives into the mountains of Colorado. On the first excursion, I visited Estes Park, traveled down the Peak-to-Peak Highway, hiked at Brainard Lake and took a few dozen photos of the changing Colorado colors. The second excursion took me our toward Breckenridge and Frisco, down to Leadville, out on a dirt road and back to Officer’s Gulch, where I found a lovely rock to sit on and write awhile.
These two trips happened rather spontaneously. I woke up early two Sundays in a row, threw a few essentials in a bag and headed out without any particular destination in mind. The only goal: to visit places I’ve never been.
Traveling to places never seen or experienced before does wonders for the soul. It is both inviting and surprising at the same time. It can result in ideas anew and reflections thoroughly necessary. It requires a bit of time and a bit of trust that you will end up exactly where you are supposed to end up and that you will see exactly what you are supposed to see.
I saw elk and historic towns, the changing leaves and the first of the snow-capped peaks. I played little if any music, allowing me to better involve each of my senses. What did the drive feel like? What did the air smell like? What does nature sound like? What do the leaves look like? What is it that makes coffee in the mountains taste stronger, bolder, richer?
Part of the reason I headed for the hills was to escape the busyness that has occupied much of the past two months. To say that work is “busy” might possibly be the biggest understatement in quite some time. It’s crazy! It’s a good crazy. We have some pretty phenomenal things going on at school, things that I never dreamed I’d get to be a part of, things that are really changing school culture and increasing student pride. I walk away each day amazed. There’s something in the air and something in the spirit of the place that is both transformative and overwhelming at times.
Our kids struggle. Fights are a regular occurrence; drug issues and teen pregnancy confronts our everyday; absences, tardiness and dropout happen at high frequency. We have five security officers in the building at all times and two police officers. “Everyone on radio!” provokes an immediate response to a crisis more often than we would like to admit.
But, we are also seeing positive change.
In the past couple weeks, we won a concert with two national recording artists, gave away free tickets to a Broncos Meet-and-Greet event, were recognized in local and regional press, and even won a handful of football games (the team hasn’t won a game since 2008). Student participation is up, teacher and staff morale is getting better, and academic investment is on the rise. Reporters from the Denver Post are in our building almost daily working on a documentary about our kids and our community. 7 News, 9 News, CHSAA and other news organizations are starting to see that at Adams City, “everything matters.”
“Everything matters” is the motto of the football team this year. It’s the motto of the head coach, Dan Jajczyk. It’s a statement that we are getting behind as a school and as a staff: every kid, every day, everything we do. And it’s a motto that I think we all need a little bit more of in our everyday existence.
As I drove into the mountains the past two weekends, “everything mattered” to me. Rather than leaving school behind, the time provided the physical, emotional and spiritual space to think through the things that are happening during the workweek. What have I seen that is tough? What have I seen that is meaningful? What have I learned in the last two months in this new role, both for me and for the school? How do I make sure that “everything matters” in the work I do moving forward?
I stumbled upon the Thoreau quote at the top of this post sometime in the past couple weeks. It struck me because it puts into perspective what we are busy about. Is what we are busy about meaningful? Does “everything matter” in what we are busy about? Or are we busy without direction and purpose?
My work will rarely, if ever, lose its sense of busyness. What I hope it never loses is its sense of meaningfulness. Everything matters in what I am busy about. If it doesn’t, I am relinquishing the opportunity given to me by God to make a positive difference in the lives of the students at Adams City. And everything matters in the days I decide long drives and long reflections are that day’s way of being busy.
Here’s to a lifetime of being busy about everything that matters in this gift of time we’ve been given.
-The Faithful Writer