Standing in the Doorway

As a school counselor, I find myself standing in a lot of doorways. It’s my spot of choice when I need to collect permission forms, borrow a student, or ask a teacher a question. A lot of teachers hate me for it because it disrupts instructional time, but it’s a necessary part of the job. Standing in a doorway allows me to see what’s going on inside a classroom and in the hallway at the same time. I can collect a form while making sure a kid doesn’t sprint down the hall, into a pregnant teacher’s stomach. Everybody wins.

I know...all of this doorway talk is too sexy. You thought this was an education blog, not a porn site. I’ll calm down, stop eroticizing my profession, and get to the inevitable metaphor.

Doorways are emblematic of most of what I have going for me. Im not the smartest person youll meet, but circumstances have afforded me opportunities to see things from different viewpoints throughout my life. The most glaring example of this is moving from Lancaster, PA to Philadelphia, PA.

I spent the first 20 years of my life in Lancaster County. I appreciate where I’m from, and you’ll never hear me bash the area or its people. Plus, who am I to pick a fight with sweet corn, the Amish, or Jonathan Groff? A lot of the best people I know live in Lancaster, including my parents and middle brother. Its where I met my co-blogger, Jason, who consistently restores my equilibrium by making me laugh hard and think deep. The people I know in Lancaster are earnest, disciplined, and humble. Dont let Mennonite folks fool you; despite their conservative reputation, many of them are quite progressive and radical when it comes to loving people.  

I still enjoy going back to Lancaster for holidays, Mom and Dad’s birthdays, and random weekends. Central Market is great; I buy most of my professional wardrobe at J. Crew Outlet; and, I would gladly name my first child Passenger, after Passenger Coffee. Lancaster is a brilliant community; it taught me a lot of what I know. I imagine it would feel like home even if I weren’t born there.

While I’m always glad to visit Lancaster, I’m also always glad to leave. Moving from my hometown to Philadelphia 13 years ago was the most important thing I've ever done. It gave me something I never could have gotten in Lancaster—the capacity to empathize from multiple perspectives.

I want to love people well, and not just the ones who look like me. In order to love people well, we should probably know them well--not from a distance or a separate neighborhood, but from beside them. Love thy neighbor is a safe claim when our neighbor lives 100 miles away. My limited perspective in Lancaster allowed my ignorance to go unconfronted. Ignorance is an uncomfortable motivator but a motivator nonetheless. In that way, Philadelphia has been my greatest teacher in learning to love.  

My perspective is not better than anyone else's. I have relatives who have lived in one zip code their entire lives and still love people much better than I do. We don't always need to uproot from where we live--sometimes just recognizing our privilege can bring new perspectives.

I don’t wish to change anyone. Folks are going to believe what they believe regardless of what I say in this blog. All I’ll offer is that standing in doorways has made me a better educator and person. Diversity of perspective has brought richness to my life. When I fail, its usually because both of my feet are planted in my own selfish perspective. We might all do a better job of loving one another if we stood in more doorways, especially when they make us uncomfortable.