Sunday, November 22, 2015

Giving the Terrorists What They Want

Excerpt from New Colossus – From the Plaque on The Statue of Liberty
"Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
– Emma Lazarus

This morning the Donald was on the TV talk shows stating his case for not allowing Syrian refugees into the US.  He doubled down on his previous rant about creating a registry for ALL Muslims in our country.   [Does this registry sound vaguely familiar?]  "I'm putting people on notice that are coming here from Syria as part of this mass migration, that if I win, they're going back."  

Ted Cruz said that President Obama’s plan to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees is, “nothing short of lunacy.” "I recognize that Barack Obama does not wish to defend this country, that he may have been tired of war, but our enemies are not tired of killing us," he added.

Ben Carson suggested that bringing refugees to this country is like having a rabid dog in the neighborhood. “For instance, if there’s a rabid dog running around in your neighborhood, you’re probably not going to assume something good about that dog, and you’re probably going to put your children out of the way,” Carson said. “It doesn’t mean that you hate all dogs by any stretch of the imagination, but you’re putting your intellect into motion.”  

Weeks ago, Ben Carson said, "I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that."  (“Meet the Press")

Just prior to Carson's interview, Donald Trump fielded a comment from a supporter on the campaign trail who said, "We have a problem in this country; it's called Muslims."  Donald Trump did not disagree.


So what do the terrorists want?  I have a sense that the feelings expressed above are exactly what they desire.  They would like for mainstream America to hate and distrust their Muslim neighbors.  They would prefer if there were a huge rift in our culture between Muslims and non-Muslims.  They would like us, as a nation, to fear Muslims and alienate them; to consider them dangerous.  They would prefer it if we were to leave the refugees to starve.  They would prefer for us to give the world the impression that we are fearful and isolated and that our “Christian nation” is not open to helping our Muslim brothers and sisters.

The candidates above all espouse Christianity.  They wear it like a badge.  They use it as a tool in this campaign.  Trump even likes the Bible more than his own book, The Art of the Deal. “The Bible, is special. The Bible, the more you see it, the more you read it, the more incredible it is. I don’t like to use this analogy [wait for it - he will], but like a great movie, a great, incredible movie. You’ll see it once it will be good. You’ll see it again. You can see it 20 times and every time you’ll appreciate it more. The Bible is the most special thing.”

Ted Cruz  announced the creation of a “national prayer team.”  Mr. Cruz, who has aggressively courted the support of evangelicals, said the creation of the team would “establish a direct line of communication between our campaign and the thousands of Americans who are lifting us up before the Lord.”

Well played.  Really.

Sanctuary: Although the vast majority of Syrian refugees live in Middle Eastern refugee camps, they are now landing on European shores (pictured) in record numbers

But how Christian is it to turn our backs on refugees who need our help?  This is a matter of life and death for many thousands of people who fear radical, murderous terrorists as much as we do.  Only more.  Many who are fleeing Syria are running for their very lives.  They are trying to protect the lives of their children.  They are trying to leave violence behind.  They are begging for help. 

Today when I was in church, the scripture was from Revelation.  Honestly, I don’t get Revelation that much.  I have heard people try to decipher it, to parse its words, to peel away the meanings like the layers of an onion to find the hidden value beneath. 

Have at it. 

Me?  I’m sort of a red-letter guy.  You know, the stuff that Jesus said.  That’s what I hang my hat on.  That is what I trust.  I don’t need anyone to analyze it or explain it to me. 

Try this from Matthew. 
35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

When we look back on our American past, there are things we should be ashamed of.  Much of the world considers the annihilation of Native Americans to be the greatest genocide in history.  There were millions of African American slaves in our country.  Then Jim Crow.  Manifest Destiny.    Internment camps.  Dropping The BOMB.  Vietnam.  Invading Iraq on false pretenses. 

And, oh yeah, we are a nation of immigrants and refugees.  Unless you are Native American, you or your ancestors probably came to these shores to seek a better life, to flee persecution or famine.  Or perhaps your ancestors came here as slaves, barely surviving the brutal middle passage at the hands of white... terrorists.

Right now, we have a chance to create our history in a way that reflects what we know is right.  We can be brave.  We can be altruistic.  We can be patriotic.  We can do the right thing.  

There will come a time when we will look back at what we do concerning the refugees.  And when we look back at these scary times, will see ourselves as a nation who succumbed to fears spread by those who seek only political gain, those who seek to spread hatred and mistrust, those who would rob us of our kindness? 

There are people who need us.  We must make a choice that reflects what we believe at our core.  I am a Christian.  My faith dictates that we should help those in need.  These refugees are hungry.  They are thirsty.  They need clothes and comfort.  We have so much. 

How do we wish to write our history?

Do we wish to give the terrorists what they want?

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Grand Day

 Grandparents' Day.  Lots of schools do this now.  Grandparents and any older special friends in lieu of Grandparents come to school for an afternoon.   At our school we serve a lunch, the older folks get speechified, they come into the classrooms for a while, then we come together as a whole school and sing a few songs to round out the day. 

I admit that while we are gearing up for it, Grandparents’ Day feels a little like a chore.  Especially this year.  We lost a lot of time with the flooding in South Carolina.  We were out of school for an entire week.  The following week we had a two-hour delay.  The week after that, a one-hour delay.  It’s not like I count the minutes of instructional time – but that was a lot of missed school. 

During those weeks of late starts, I nixed recess.  I figured that the kids could have a lot of extra time to recreate before school started.  When we saw other classes out on the playground on our way to lunch, there was a lot of, “MR. O’KEEFE!  Why do they get to have recess and we don’t? 

“Because we only have a 5 hour school day.  Think of all of your recess at home.”

But why do THEY get to have recess?

“Hmmm.  Their teacher is a lot nicer than yours?”

So Grandparents’ Day was approaching.  Last year we asked the grands to talk to us about race relations when they were young.  Ours is a beautifully integrated school and the grandparents could share personal insights we could only read about in books.   We had been thinking a lot about Civil Rights and who better to inform us than folks who had lived through segregation/integration?  It was as wonderful as I could have imagined.  Some grandparents got teary as they recalled the struggles, the triumphs, the personal changes in attitude.  It was magic.  They were slow to begin their stories, but once they got started, there was a flood of responses. 

Once again, the grandparents would come into our room for about an hour.  It doesn’t seem like a lot of time to fill, but I had put off thinking about it until just a couple days before.  I asked the kids about it.  “Maybe we could sing some of our best songs.”  Check.  This is a wonderful class of singers. 

“How about we tell about the food drive and all of the math we do?”  Check again.  My class is so generous.  Kids are buying food with their allowance, doing chores to exchange for food for the food drive, talking their parents and grandparents into making donations, spending their birthday money.  We are charting the number of food items, the number of servings, the weight, the number of total calories.  Good stuff. 

At sort of the last minute, I suggested that we ask the grandparents to share their advice with us.  Given their experiences and life lessons, what kinds of advice could they share with young ones about how to be happy, healthy, successful people?   It seemed rather bland to the kids, but I thought there could be a lot of payback from that little question.

Grandparents jpg

When the grandparents came in I invited them to consider the question.  There were pencils and papers on each table.  While we sang our songs and presented what we were currently working on in the classroom, I urged them to take a few moments to jot down their guidance, encouragement and wisdom. 

The last song we sang before turning it over to them is a little known tune by John Denver called “60 Second Song for a Bank”.   It was the perfect set up.

Oh I love the changing seasons

Green and growing all around

Smiling faces laughing children

Making such a joyful sound

In my dreams I see tomorrow

Time and children of my own

Someone who will stand beside me

Helping me to make ourselves a home

If your eyes can see tomorrow

Though it might seem far away

If you have some dreams to build on

May we help you today
The sharing began slowly.  Then, as we passed the microphone around, more and more elders shared their bits of wisdom, their personal philosophies.  It was wonderful.  There were tear filled eyes, nods of agreement, a few “Amens” as the grands filled us up with words to live by…

old woman and young girl holding hands 

Be kind to the poor...  Never tease others…  Use humor to diffuse an embarrassing situation. Learn to laugh along with others if you do something embarrassing... Be all that you can be... Don’t be afraid of challenges. Always strive to do your best...

 If you say that you can’t– you have already defeated yourself... Continue to keep a song in your heart. Remember all that you are learning and the way you are learning. Your kindness to others is a tribute to your teachers and your parents.

Believe in yourself then do your very best. Be a good friend then you will have good friends. Enjoy learning. Love books! Always give thanks... Be kind to each other always. Eat your vegetables.

Never stop learning even when you are old... Make sure that you will be happy and proud of what you said and did... Exercise regularly. Get enough rest. You must endeavor to persevere. Learn something every day... Remember life’s lessons as well as the “facts”.

Your teachers, parents and elders really have your best interests in mind, no matter how you might disagree... Never speak badly about someone...
Learn to write well and write a lot. Learn a useful foreign language... Be aware of current events. Enjoy being outside...

Greet those you meet with a smile. Be respectful to those around you. Help your family with. daily chores... If you see someone who is sad, go give them a hug. Then ask if they want to talk about what is making them sad...

When the day is over go and rest. Give 110%. Only be satisfied if you have given your best... I advise my grandchildren to be obedient to the teacher... Always make time to play while you are young and carefree...

Give generously. Love diversity! Love one another. Cherish family and friends.

            When the grandparents and older special friends left our classroom, going to find a seat in the Great Room (our little auditorium at the center of our school) to wait for the finale – the whole school singing a couple of our favorite songs – there was a lot of hand shaking and patting me on the back.  So many of the grandparents were proud of the work their young relatives were doing and many said complimentary things about my teaching and me.  I found a few notes left on my table thanking me anonymously for the fine work we do at the Center for Inquiry.   But for me it was a humbling moment. 

That afternoon wasn’t about me.  I was not even looking forward to it, honestly.  I was thinking it was one of those little hoops to jump through to get successfully to the end of the week.  It was the Grandparents who made the difference.  It sort of made me sad to think that having them in is a “special occasion” when they have so much casual wisdom to share.  I only hope that those words of wisdom had half the effect on my students that it had on me. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Perfect Gift

I got this really cool gift the other day.  It was from one of my third graders.  I arrived at school early.  I’m generally the first one in my building.  Now it is dark when I arrive from my commute.  I switch on the lights.  Feed the hamster, the fish, and whatever other animals happen to be visiting the classroom.  We recently hatched out these little prehistoric animals called triops.  

I look at the lesson plans for the day, shift around things we haven’t gotten around to from days before.  Write the morning stuff on the board.  Run any papers that have to be run for the day.  I like that time a lot.  Its quiet.  I'm in my space.  There is a sense of anticipation every day.

I was out of the room for a while, chatting with another teacher.  When I got back, there were several children sitting outside the door reading, waiting patiently for me to arrive so they could settle in.

When I got to my table, there was a fancy little box on my lesson clipboard.  Hmmm…  I picked it up and one of my little ones walked over.  “I got you something," she almost whispered. 

“Wow, cool box,” I said. 

“Well, I’ve got to have that back.”

“Of course,” I said.  "A box like that, you want to save.  You could give other gifts in that box.”

“Mmm hmm.”  She was sort of hopping from one foot to another.  “Wanna open it?”  She was so excited that her eyes were shining.  Big grin. 

I shook the box gently.  It was so light; I thought maybe she was playing a trick on me.  We do that kind of thing.  But she was too expectant.  Too happy-nervous.

“Well, I don’t usually get gifts on random days.  This must be really special.”  I opened the lid.  Cotton. 

“You’ve gotta take the cotton off.”  She was going up and down on her toes.  Her smile a little image of beauty.  “First, our morning hug.”  We hugged.  She is a hugger.

I lifted the top layer of cotton off.  There was a tiny bird skull.  Very small.  Very delicate.  Very beautiful.  “I knew you’d like it,” she said.  “I just knew it.”

“It’s beautiful,” I said.  “I wonder what kind of bird it might be.”

“I wondered too.  We found it on our neighborhood.  It was laying there all by itself.  You think maybe it’s a hummingbird?”

“I don’t think so.  Those have longer, more slender beaks.  Almost like a curved straw.”

“Oh yeah.  I remember.  Like the hummingbird skeleton we have on the wall.”

“I think this might be a wren,” I said, still a little breathless from the tiny exquisite skull.  “I don’t think we should put this in the science area.  Too fragile.  Someone could damage it by accident.”  Our science area is filled with bones - from the vertebrate of a pilot whale, to the skulls of deer, a wild boar, a fox, an opossum, a mongoose from Hawaii, a great blue heron, a green sea turtle and many more.  This little guy could get lost.

“Let’s hang it up on the wall.  We could put it with those other skeletons,” I suggested.

“Oh yeah.  That would be cool.”

That’s just what we did.  It is up there along with our prized bat skeleton that my class recreated after leaving it buried for 3 months or so in a mesh bag.  There are bird skeletons, a frog skeleton and small rodent skeletons we recreated from owl pellets. 

What was so special about that little scene is how much affection is shared in our little community.  There is so much care.  There is so much love. 


It isn’t something that my college methods professors ever talked about.  Even the best ones.  Respect maybe.  But I don’t think love ever came up in our heady conversations.  We talked about best practice.  Varying instruction to meet children’s needs.  We talked about progressive education.  Democracy in classrooms.  Not love.  Never love.

But love is what it is all about it seems to me.  I never said the “L Word” to my young friends for many years.  I felt it to be sure.  But it has only been in the last 15 or 20 years that I said it.  Out loud.  And it feels good.  A little awkward at first.  Even a little scary.  But after getting it out there, it helped with all kinds of things.

I’m not saying our group of friends doesn’t have challenges.  We do.  Almost every day.  There are unkind words.  Times when we just don’t do our best.  Times when I have to talk privately about some management issue with someone “in my office” (a.k.a. the hall outside our room).  Most of the time I preface these remarks with, “You know how I feel about you, but…  You are such a good friend, but… Listen, we care about each other in here, right?”  Then on with the lecture. 

But that preface part?  The love part?  It makes a difference.  


I’ve been in this business for a long time.  36 years?  A lot of teachers I have known didn’t stick it out.  They got burned out.  I get it.  It is hard.  There is a lot of pressure and a lot of responsibility.  Young lives at stake.

What has helped me is that I try – as much as possible – to be myself.  And I encourage kids to do the same.   So when I read something that makes me angry in the paper, something that seems outrageously unfair, the kids know it.  And when I read the “Last Day” chapter in Charlotte’s Web, the kids expect me to get a little misty, to lower my voice to a whisper, to take long pauses before reading on. 

For the most part we are like that with each other.  And that little bird skull?  That little spontaneous token of appreciation?  It meant so much because that child knows me.   She planned out that little surprise to wow me, to make me feel good, to let me know that she was thinking about me when I wasn’t even there. 

Now it is often dark when I get to school and dark before I get into my car at night.  But sometimes I leave feeling that no one could have a better job than this.  Who else gets to plan with a group of friends how to learn amazing things, have interesting conversations, read incredible books, and write beautiful stories?  Who else gets to spend this much time with so many people they love?

Friday, August 7, 2015

The Nine

This summer was pretty traumatic for Heidi and me...  and for many in South Carolina.  Of course I am referring to the Charleston Nine.  It took me a while to write about it.  And when I did it was scrawled in my writer's notebook, on napkins, in church bulletins.  We went to church services, went to the Rally to Take Down the Confederate Flag.  Heidi and her grad students walked from campus to watch as the Confederate flag was lowered from the State House.  We read and reread accounts in the paper, op-ed pieces, letters to the editor.

I don't care about Dylan Roof (who agreed to plead guilty if he could be assured of not getting the death penalty).  I do care that he got a gun so easily.  I care that this wasn't just an isolated case of one mentally ill person who raged against another race.  Sadly he is a symbol of something much greater.  Racism exists and has existed since white people came to this continent.  This will not end it - even with the Confederate flag coming down.  Some people are obviously angry about it.  One over-the-top Ku Klux Klan woman ranted something about, "Well if they can take our flag down, we should TAKE DOWN THEIRS!" (?)

There have been churches and conservative pundits who don't want to admit that there are race issues in our country that, "This isn't a race problem.  It's a SIN problem!"

No, it is a race problem.  I'd like to think that the killer of the Charleston 9 was a single deranged mind who accidentally got a gun that he wasn't supposed to by law.  But to me, the killer is a symbol of a hatred that has existed for centuries.  Anyone who thinks that we are beyond race issues is blind.

At first I OVER-wrote this song. It was about 9 minutes long, then 7 1/2 minutes long (after leaving out many of the emotions and thoughts I had about it).   With some coaching from Heidi I got it down to about 5 minutes.  Still too long maybe.  But I can't say/sing all that I feel in fewer words.

Thanks to my friend James Woods for inspiring me to get off my reading butt and get into writing again.  Some day I'll get on Sound Cloud or get a recording on Youtube.  For now here are the lyrics.

The Nine – Tim O’Keefe 7-15

Charleston in the month of June                        Am C
At Mother Emmanuel                                        G Am
Good people met to share their prayers
But one man came to kill

They invited him to share their time                     F C
To pray, to learn, to teach                                    G Am
They welcomed him with open arms
But his heart was out of reach

Maybe some good will happen                        Am C
Maybe some kind of spark                               G Am
Maybe we’ll move a little closer to the light 
Maybe come in from the dark
Maybe we’ll seek some honest answers            F C
That would be so fine                                       G Am
Maybe we’ll speak some truth to power
We owe so much to The Nine                            E* Am

He shot and killed those precious ones
To start some kind of war
He thought his hate would conquer their love
But he’ll get no reward

‘Cause when the families of the victims spoke
Their strength came from their faith
Forgiveness was the message they shared,
“There’s no room in my heart to hate.”                        

Maybe some good will happen                        Am C
Maybe some kind of spark                               G Am
Maybe we’ll move a little closer to the light 
Maybe come in from the dark
Maybe we’ll seek some honest answers            F C
That would be so fine                                      G Am
Maybe we’ll speak some truth to power
We owe so much to The Nine                           E* Am

It was no trouble for that young man
To get himself a gun
Like chains and whips and ropes of old
He carried a Glock .41

They prayed and talked that mid June night
A young stranger in their midst
Singing those old Halleluiah songs
They couldn’t know what to expect                       

We met this evil man before                                         F C F C G
His face was there on Africa’s shore                            Am F C G
In the Dark Middle Passage and Hate’s awful course  Am F C G
We’re familiar with his terrible face
His gun and his rope and his hanging place
His Jim Crow laws, his higher race
We know this wretched man all right
His tired flag, his speeches trite
His endless battle against Civil Rights
His chains, his whip, his hate, his gun
He’s been in this land since we’ve begun
Now let us pray that his time is done

Along with the Birmingham girls
Mississippi and young Emmett Till
The Freedom Riders back in ‘61
We remember their stories well

“Come Ye That Love The Lord,” they sang
And, “We are marching to beautiful Zion”
We sing their songs, we raise our voices
To the memory of The Nine

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Life In A Woodpile

Being a teacher, my life for most of the summer is somewhat unstructured.  I have gotten some letters form my kids – which I dutifully answer the same day I receive them.  This little bit of old fashioned writing is a pleasure for me.  The whole act of putting one’s thoughts down on paper, finding the envelope, affixing a stamp, writing out the address, getting it to the mailbox, putting the flag up…  however antiquated, it is still a worthwhile process for me. 

I read more fiction during the summer.  One of my favorite times of day is just before the sun comes up.  I don’t think I’ve slept past 7AM all summer.  Old habits are hard to break.  The summer has had some sweltering temperatures, but at 6 in the morning it’s not so bad.  I usually sit on the back porch with our big yellow dog and read before it gets too hot. 

I have been doing some work for the university making classroom videotapes into DVDs with logical chapters.  I enjoy getting to watch good teachers doing their best work.  I’ve seen quite a few of these little scenes over the past few weeks.

But the work I love to do best in the summer is outside.  Because it’s been so hot, watering our outdoor plants is critical.  A lot of this is done by hand with the hose.  Most of our flowers and shrubs really can’t be seen from the road.  But they make us feel good.  I know some people would scoff at the amount of time and effort it takes to keep our landscaping alive – but it is a form of art for us; living art.  If something gets too much sun, I dig it up and move it to another spot.  Putting out pinestraw.  Mowing.  Watering.  Planting.  Re-planting.  We spend a lot of time at it.  It is a labor of love.

There are always other projects to do outdoors if you live in the country.   We burn a lot of wood in the winter.  So, stockpiling wood for our fireplace is something I think about often.  We don’t have to buy wood.  There are plenty of casualties in our forest to keep us supplied.  As a consequence, at times we have too much wood.  We took down a big old yellow oak a few years ago.  It became our burning wood.  That woodpile was a thing of beauty, for that tree was amazing.  We had a fire almost every cold evening for the last three winters and still a lot of that wood has gone soft. 

Luckily, another big old oak has fallen and is waiting to be cut up into fireplace lengths and added to our woodpile.  But the old stuff has to go.  I have been lugging it out into the woods and placing it into crevices that are eroding.  It’s been hot, sweaty work.  Not too easy on this 58-year-old back either. 

But it’s good work.  Honest work.  It is gratifying in the same way that painting is.  1.  There is the task before you.  2.  You do the task.  3.  You see the outcome of your labor clearly.  It’s good stuff.  Nothing very heady.  You can sort of meditate while you are doing it.  Roll.  Lift.  Load.  Move.  Unload.  Rinse and repeat. 

Digging into an old woodpile is a zoologist’s dream.  If you haven’t done it, you might not believe the amount and variety of animals you’ll find.  I couldn’t begin to list all of the animals I’ve found in the last week or so.  Some of them I know only generically such as centipedes and millipedes and worms.  But the variation among those animals alone is pretty fantastic.  Of course there are termites (better there than in our home).  There are many varieties of ants from fireants who would love to sting, to great big black ants with red thoraxes.  When I disturbed one colony, there were hundreds of cocoon-like eggs and each ant rushed to find one and drag it to safety. 

There is a tremendous variety of beetles including one of my favorites  - the bess beetle.  If you live in the south and have ever turned over an old log in the woods these are familiar.  Large and shiny black, these guys are wood recycling factories.  They are slow and clumsy when out of their environment, but they do their job of breaking down wood very well. 

I saw slugs and snails and rolly pollies (isopods), small wiggly worms that literally jump off the ground when touched, along with the big fish-bait night crawlers.  And reptiles.  There are little green anole lizards, 5-line skinks with beautiful bright blue lines running down their tails, and fairly big, fierce looking broadhead skinks.  The heads of the males are reddish orange and, I can tell you from experience, can bite pretty hard if you are stupid enough to try to catch one. 

You have to be careful of snakes when you are rooting around in a woodpile.  I found a large garter snake, which startled me and caused me to yip and pull back.  

A few weeks ago when I was uncovering those old logs, there was a beautiful big king snake.  These are the snakes you want in your woodpile, as they eat the
venomous ones (like the infamous copperheads) when they can.  They are surprisingly docile with humans and my son Devin (a snake whisperer if ever there was one) picked up that snake with slow ease and carried it around for a few minutes before releasing it right back where we found it. 

My favorite find of the day was my old friend Angelo, the eastern box turtle.  He was wedged between two rotted logs on the bottom tier.  If you have read my blog over the years, you may remember that he was my classroom pet for about 23 or 24 years.  I brought him home for the summer and built a snazzy pen for him in the woods.  The next day he was gone.  was sad to lose my old friend and when I blogged about him, I got a response from the editor of Ranger Rick, a nature magazine written for kids.  She assured me that it was right and good for him to be in the woods.  I was at peace with it and then rediscovered him.  Of course we set him free for good.  He shows up a couple times a year.  One predictable time is when the peaches fall off our tree before we can pick them.  Angelo trundles out of the woods to eat the soft ones from the spongy earth beneath the tree. 

Just to look at that old woodpile, it wouldn’t seem like such a marvelous ecosystem.  I do feel a little sorry for city folks who don’t have access to real woods, real dirt, and real animals in their natural environment.  Some lessons for me include: that it pays to look carefully, to get down on your knees and get your hands in dirt, to appreciate the beautiful, intricate web of life that surrounds us. 

If you look at little kids and wild animals, these are two groups of things that whenever I'm with them forces me to be in the moment.