Lessons learned from life experience seem to influence me the most. They seem to change me the most. But the life experiences from which I glean the most are those learned from other people.
I’m amazed by how much I’ve learned from people I meet in the world. Everyone has so much to offer. Some of my greatest education has come from the lessons I've learned in my travels. I've traveled to Taiwan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Japan, China, Macau, Inner Mongolia, Uganda, London, Costa Rica, Mexico, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Kiribati, Prince Edward Island, India, Qatar, Dubai, Brazil, etc. Without fail, I have gleaned valuable lessons from the lives of the people I've met in my travels--even strangers.
From Jake, a horse guide in Song Pan, China, I learned the value of literacy. I watched him spend twenty minutes writing his name and address by the light of the camp fire with three other horse guides (at times, more) huddled around to assist him in this great effort.
From the elementary-age students I taught in a small village in Uganda, I learned what a privilege it is to have access to books. I watched their thrilled expressions as they handled a book for the first time and curiously examined the colorful illustrations.
From two 20-year-old girls I met at the Kiribati airport who were departing their families and tiny native island for the first time, I learned that courage is required when gaining an education through new life experiences. When we arrived at the Fiji airport, I couldn’t help but notice the fear and hesitancy on their faces as I coached them through their experience getting on and off an escalator for the first time.
But I've also learned that I don't need to travel outside the country to learn valuable life lessons from others.
From a woman I met this week in Indianapolis who attended the literacy training I conducted, I learned that it’s never too late to learn. She wants to learn how to teach literacy amid her demanding schedule because she knows a 90-year-old woman who has expressed an earnest desire to learn to read before she dies.
From my younger sister who was just diagnosed with cancer (again) and who will likely have to drop out of law school (again), I learned about the role of commitment in pursuing an education. Although right now she is forced to shift her efforts from pursuing her education to fighting a debilitating disease, she is committed to fight this disease, get it behind her, and then continue pursuing her educational goals.
The common theme woven through each of these lessons learned is education...life education—lessons learned from life. When we think of the word "education," do we think of pencils, desks, and notebooks? Homework, test-taking, and reading? We all have different ideas of what education means and its value to us personally. I've learned, personally, that some of the greatest lessons learned in life are not in a formal classroom setting or on a university campus. Rather, they’re learned in the school of life.
I realize how education plays an integral part of life experience, regardless of age, native language, and native country. And in a world full of unfulfilled needs and unmet desires, I recognize the need to contribute to others’ education...others' life education—lessons learned from life.