Changing the World One Pencil at a Time

Changing the World One Pencil at a Time

In the summer of 2000, I willingly departed the comforts of Nova Scotia, Canada in exchange for an eye-opening, life-changing opportunity to participate in an educational project called “Project Overseas.” in Guyana, South America, on behalf of the Canadian Teacher’s Federation.

I can still vividly recall the day I was eating lunch with the other Canadian teachers when a convoy of large, military looking trucks pulled into the schoolyard. We all stopped eating and rushed to witness what was happening.

Once parked, the drivers rushed to the back and pulled up the worn, dust-covered tarps. We could not believe our eyes. Hundreds of people exited from the backs of each of those trucks. “Who are these tired, sick looking people?” I asked. Our Supervisor pointed out that they were the Guyanese teachers. Many of them made the long journey with their entire families, had not eaten in days, cramped beyond endurance, and made the journey through physical illness. They truly appreciated the value of an education. Now that’s dedication.

One rainy afternoon, I was slowly packing my teaching supplies when I was distracted by the voice of a woman. She politely approached, her eyes staring at the floor as if she was ashamed. I stood there silently and waited as she approached me. Finally, she stopped and asked one simple question, a question which would forever change my core beliefs.

“Do you have one spare pencil so that I may break it in half and give it to two of my students?” Those words brought tears to my eyes. Not having a pencil to offer, I absently searched inside my wallet and gave her a “Hug Someone You Love Today” card. She smiled, looked at the card, hugged me lightly and slowly walked away. Amazing!

I would like to conclude with a story of the Chinese bamboo tree, which I read from my favorite authors, Zig Ziglar. The Chinese plant bamboo; they seed, they water and fertilize it, but the first year nothing happens. The second year they water and fertilize it, and nothing happens. The third and fourth years they water and fertilize it, and still, nothing happens. The fifth year they water and fertilize it, and sometime during the fifth year, in a period of approximately six weeks, the Chinese bamboo tree grows roughly ninety feet.

“Did the tree grow ninety feet in six weeks or did it grow ninety feet in five years?” Of course, it grew ninety feet in five years with the constant nourishment and the unfaltering devotion of the farmer. Now imagine your students as the bamboo seed and you, the teacher, as their water and fertilizer. In your hands, you hold the seeds of failure or the potential for growth.

If you need a little motivation, read my books, “Hug Someone You Love Today” and “Perfectly Imperfect” … and don’t forget to carry a few EXTRA PENCILS!

Mike Pickles- Educator, Speaker & Author

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