Occasionally you meet a person and you think, this person is touched by divinity. Elizabeth and I met five years ago now--and only once--but I have marveled from afar, all the time since, as her life has tumbled forward. She has an exceptional mind (in that I think it works in a way that very few do), and an exceptional heart. And if I am very honest, her writing often causes me to set down my pen for fear that I'll never write anything as good. (But it also drives me to write more in the hope that I will).
And, as is evident, from the photos above, she is a visual artist of some small amount of talent (those are paper crowns).
In her nearly perfect corner of the internet she posted about her sixth grade class and their birthday tradition. I emailed her today to ask if I could share it here because what follows puffed my chest full of hope this morning:
"Before we collect our crowns one final afternoon in May, I gather my subjects to me in semi-circle. By luck my birthday fell last in the school year, and I wield my queenship to keep a captive audience for one final address. The room is quiet, hushed and still, and there is a sacred sweetness to our parting that floods my whole being in what feels like pulsing, radiant light. You are kings and queens, I tell them, and every day you establish your kingdom. I hope it is a good and a peaceable one, I hope it is a stronghold to you and a place of refuge for others. I hope you reign long, and well. I hope you rule with a sense of wonder, an abiding joy, and the unyielding banner of kindness."
I believe in self-love. I believe in honesty. I believe that the most profound thing we can do is cultivate a meaningful wholeness within ourselves. I think the greatest successes are often deeply personal. I worry sometimes that as a country--as a culture--we think self-care is selfish, unnecessary. That we believe to spend too much time thinking about ourselves is inherently egotistical or narcissistic. But what if as sixth graders every last one of us was taught that we are a kingdom unto ourselves? And with that great privilege comes great responsibility. To govern well, to till the soil and improve the land, to create a safe harbor for others. What if the idea of a "kingdom" creates just enough distance from ourselves that we can actually get behind caring for and bettering ourselves? We believe monarchs and leaders to have agency. What if all sixth graders were asked to cultivate their own agency? What if we were taught that caring for ourselves (our kingdom) is actually how we care for others?
Last year Agapi Stassinopoulos wrote the following: "The Greek word for the state of happiness is 'euphoria,' and the noun 'euphoros' means the bearer of goodness. One of the fundamental elements to finding euphoria is to be that euphoros -- bearer of goodness -- for yourself and for others. This means radical generosity, starting with yourself.
If we see ourselves as the bearers of good, wherever we go we will create an atmosphere of goodness around us, and we will spread a sense of well-being to others. We will start to do good things for ourselves without thinking about it, and we will start having good thoughts about ourselves. We will experience positive emotions and produce positive outcomes because we will be connecting to our innate goodness. And from that place we will bring it to others."
"I hope you rule with a sense of wonder, an abiding joy, and the unyielding banner of kindness."
What good might happen if we all approached our lives in this way?