The Power of Preservation and Pruning
There's a unique grapevine in Santorini, Greece producing some of the oldest grapes and most expensive wines. This vine spends cool, moist evenings soaking up as much moisture as it can to prepare for the next day's scorching.
The hot, dry days, impoverished soil, harsh winds, and ocean saltwater contribute to the adversity this grape will face throughout its 15-year development stage. It is not through sheer luck these grapes have survived.
The grapevines in Santorini naturally hug the earth, doing their best to protect themselves from the harsh elements. Harvesters also prune the vines to form a circular basket structure similar to a wreath. A style of growing known as a kouloura.
The result of careful pruning and instinctual preservation provides a refuge inside the wreath protected from the elements for the grapes to flourish. This masterful combination is proven effective when considering the length of time grapes need to grow to reach their maturity.
Personal Preservation Journey
The Santorini grape vines have become an icon for me in my own life.
The harsh elements I have faced over the years are varied. As a people pleaser, disapproval can often feel like the sting of salt water in a deep wound. While hiking the Grand Canyon last year as a family, I felt the weight of defeat under the dry, hot sun. That hike challenged every physical, mental, and emotional barrier in me. Professional and personal life experiences have felt the same.
Sometimes, I feel bombarded with a never-ending list of challenges and to-dos. This “tossing in the wind” can leave me feeling dizzy and directionless. Finally, my nourishment demands healthy foods, exercise, spiritual growth, quiet time to myself, and a strong community. When these requirements are lacking my soil can feel impoverished.
Preservation does not mean growth. Preservation keeps us from damage or decay. Preservation is just the beginning.
Unfortunately, external substances, activities, or internal beliefs can disguise themselves as instruments for preservation. For years I used alcohol as a tool to “preserve” my life. I cherished its powers to provide stress-relief, freedom from my thoughts, bursts of energy, and unencumbered joy.
While alcohol was able to provide momentary freedom, the lasting effects resulted in enslavement. My ability to produce fruit for my family and at work was stunted.
Considering the fruit your preservation methods yield will be the true measure of their value. Healthy preservation methods will yield good fruit: contentment, patience, thoughtfulness, gratefulness, and growth mindset to name a few.
Personal Pruning Journey
Recognizing areas of false preservation is one step, pruning them is another. Unlike preservation, pruning will help you to grow and flourish.
Cutting alcohol from life was like losing a best friend. I had relied on this friend to see me through some of the worst times in my life. This friend was always with me when it was time to celebrate. I had spent more of my life with this friend than without it! Rationalizations and internal battles fought to keep us together.
Ultimately, knowing my potential impact without it, defeated my selfish desire to cling to it.
I did not believe I could do what I was meant to do unless I was willing to become who I was supposed to become. Nor could I become who I was supposed to become unless I did what I needed to do.
This is true for all of us!
It has been almost three years since I cut alcohol from my life. My grief stage has ended. I'm living with more joy, contentment, and strength than expected. Relationships in my life have changed dramatically. Perhaps, none more significant than my relationship with my daughter.
Unique Nature vs. Unique Needs
At one time, I allowed an external substance to choke my daughters development and damage our relationship. Now, my daughter is one of many “grape bunches” maturing safely within my kouloura. My willingness to prune replaced anger, bitterness, guilt, shame, impatience, and sorrow with love, peace, joy, strength, gentleness, and clarity.
I love wine! Someday, I hope to taste the prized whites of Santorini, Greece. However, I understand that success is a journey, not a destination. Santorini's grapes are not the prize, their preservation and pruning journey is.
Rather than look forward to a reunion with an old friend, I will harness the life lesson Santorini grape vines offer. I will sip on the success that comes from healthy preservation and active pruning in my own life.
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Truly, the world has been waiting centuries for someone like you! Waiting for someone like each one of the children on this planet! Imagine the impact our youth would have if they owned this truth.
Unfortunately, maybe is being ignored.
What they might accomplish, achieve, or who they might become is overshadowed by present day tasks and responsibilities that are disconnected from a "picture of a special future".
Is it really about them getting A's in school? About them excelling with an instrument? In a sport? As an artist?
It is not about their excellence today. It is about how their experiences today will contribute to their impact tomorrow.
My son is not an academic, my daughter is. My daughter is not a natural athlete, my son is.
Regardless of where they excel, their potential to impact this world is equally grand. Their unique gifts, strengths, and interests help me to instill in them a "picture of a special future".
A Picture of a Special Future
Kobi Yamada exemplifies what I try to instill in every child we have the pleasure of working with, including my own.
They are not here on this earth to get good grades, to become a soccer star, or an exemplary musician. They are here to absorb as much growth and development as they can in order to provide the greatest impact possible.
When we share future possibilities with our children, they become motivated to bring them to fruition. Additionally, we teach them to visualize their future potential as well.
How are you helping your children to realize a picture of their special future? Does this picture go past their current school year? Calendar year?
Do they see their unique gifts and strengths and connect them to their potential for impact now?
Encourage Children To Do Big Things
My daughter is 13. She is a pianist, a cellist, a basketball and lacrosse player, an artist, an innovator, and a leader.
Despite all these wonderful gifts and qualities in her, nothing brings her more joy than working with young children. She comes alive when she is put in a role to care for or teach "littles".
She has wanted to be a teacher since she was two years old and has not wavered from this for a moment.
Her future is undoubtably special.
However, she is not waiting for her future to use her gifts. She is actively using her gifts now to impact the world. She has everything it takes to do big things.
Aside from babysitting, she looks for any opportunity to work with children. She has organized and led a week-long camp for kids and consistently volunteers at our church's children's ministry.
Despite all of this, I am sure she does not know how much she truly matters. This book has prompted me to remind her and her brother everyday.
Do Your Children Know How Much They Matter?
Kobi Yamada, uses Maybe to deepen readers' curiosity about themselves, their purpose, and their potential. He presents many valuable life lessons within this short book that should be adopted and exemplified in each person's life.
Your children matter!
It is up to us - parents, educators, and school leaders - to instill this message in our children.
We have a responsibility to remind children daily how much they matter. If we do this, then maybe their "picture of a special future" will become a reality. And maybe, their future reality will change the world.
Author Kathryn Erskine grew up cross-culturally, splitting her developmental years between Europe, Africa, and North America. Like many Cross Cultural Kids (CCK's) - a person who has lived in or meaningfully interacted with two or more cultural environments for a significant period of time during developmental years - Kathryn had to re-establish a sense of belonging at each school and with each move. She had to cultivate her "we".
Have you ever considered that "we" is not possible without "me"?
This is one of the many reasons why we love, All of Us. The author starts and ends the book with "me". One little girl, all alone in the world, who introduces the collective possibilities of humankind.
Effective Global Citizenship
Another reason why we love this book, is because we feel it exemplifies our definition of global citizenship and supports our mission to unify school communities.
We believe you can be an effective or ineffective global citizen. It is because of this, we champion effective global citizenship, rather than global citizenship. Effective global citizenship requires three elements:
This last criteria may be the most challenging, but is also the most rewarding. It is through our willingness to learn from others that we become more effective. This requires vulnerability and empathy; skills not readily practiced and that cause discomfort.
The third, and most significant reason we will use and share, All of Us, is because of the vision carried through the story. Erskine's story presents a utopia of unity. She captures the possibility humanity has when we shift our perspective from a local "we" to a global "we".
I am sure Kathryn carries challenging memories of division and separation throughout her moves as a child. But, I would hasten to say, she also witnessed unlikely collectives providing a positive impact on this world. I am sure she has seen the potential in specific examples throughout her travels. It is through this lived experience, that All of Us carries an authentic and hopeful message.
Ultimately, whether you are a child or adult, this is a beautifully written and illustrated book that provokes greater unity and instills hope.
Cultured Kids boasts the potential for picture books to transform individuals, families, classrooms, and schools. We believe picture books are for all people, all ages, all stages.
The right picture book could simplify a message you have been trying to share with your staff, your classroom, or your children. Additionally, the introduction and discussion around picture books can be a refreshing change of pace.
It is with this in mind that we have created a book discussion and resource tool for school leaders, educators, and parents. Additionally, while I would encourage you to use this tool to insight change within your school, classroom, or home, I would also encourage you to reflect on your own personal development as well.