Monday, November 5, 2018

Essay: Our best teachers

“Your best teacher is the person 
who offers you your greatest challenge.” 
~Cheryl Richardson

Apples for my teachers / Cindy La Ferle


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We don't necessarily meet our best teachers in school. In everyday situations, we can learn invaluable lessons from the button-pushers who anger, annoy, baffle, disappoint, enrage, or challenge us in a variety of ways. 

How about that slow-moving stranger at the grocery store -- the one who's always in your aisle -- for instance? Or the raging politician whose propaganda makes you scream at the TV? And what about the careless friend who mistreats or neglects you? There's a message in each painful event or awkward encounter if you look for it. 

Just for starters ....

* Maybe you're always in a hurry. The slow-moving grocery shopper is teaching you to pause and savor the privilege of purchasing food for yourself and your loved ones.  Likewise, when you're stuck in slow traffic, you could seize the opportunity to breathe deeply and count your blessings.

* The obnoxious politician is a reminder to tone down your own rhetoric when you're discussing controversial issues. Or he could be hitting a raw nerve that you need to explore on a deeper level. Or maybe it's time to cut back on cable news.

* If a friend's thoughtless behavior is chronic, it might be your cue to lighten up and invest less emotional energy in the lopsided relationship. Or maybe the lesson here is that you need to start treating yourself with more respect -- and spend more time with other pals who are a better fit for your companionship. 

Sometimes our best "teachers" aren't other people. They can arrive in the form of job loss, ill health, and unexpected challenges. 

I was terrified when I developed skin cancer on my lower right eyelid, for example. I worried about the outcome of my reconstruction surgeries: How would I look after the skin graft and surgical wounds healed? During my long recovery this summer, it hit me that I'd wasted too many years caring about superficial appearances. My bout with eyelid cancer taught me to look deeper for self-worth and validation.

And on it goes. We cannot change unfortunate circumstances, nor can we control the behavior of others. But we can manage our own responses. Once we start seeing negative encounters or hurtful events as opportunities to learn and grow, we can thank those teachers and move on. ~Cindy La Ferle 


  1. Terrific post, Cindy. I agree totally with it's content. We worry way too much about superficial things. During a kidney stone surgery this spring, I was made aware of a malignant lesion on my kidney. We found a great doctor who we had tremendous confidence in and left the situation in his and God's hands. At my recent 6 month recheck, I am cancer free. Worrying is a wasted emotion, but we all tend to succumb to it at times. Thanks for your posting!

    1. Wow, Bob, I had no idea you were going through this. I am relieved to know you've had such a good outcome and kept a positive outlook. Thanks for keeping me posted, and I wish you continued great health!