“Close the Gate!” was the last thing I heard before total chaos broke loose. My husband was repairing a fence from a fallen tree while my son was hauling away the wood. My daughter and I were weeding the garden. The horses were grazing in the pasture. Somehow in the few minutes the gate was left open, the horses not only realized it, but also headed straight for the open gap in the fence. They ran out of the yard, across the street and through the backs of several neighbors’ yards. Behind them ran four of us with a variety of rescue apparatus including ropes, nectarines and hay. Two thoughts raced through my head. The first was please don’t let them get hurt. Followed closely by, I didn’t know they could run this fast – how am I going to catch them! For a good ten minutes they tore at high speed across our neighbors’ backyards as we tried to act as human fences, keeping them from areas of danger. Finally, they either got tired, bored, or the grass was just too fresh to pass up and they began grazing. We were able to get halters on them and lead them back home.
This little escapade made me wonder just how much potential we limit in ourselves, our children and students by the gates we put in place. We impose limits on ourselves and each other all the time. Sometimes gates are necessary. Obviously, it wouldn’t be a good idea to have our horses gallivanting around the neighborhood every day. But often the gates we impose in our own lives do more than keep us safe, they limit our potential. Take for instance my aunt. She has recently been experiencing some health issues due to cancer which limited her walking. She had all but resigned herself to the fact that she would probably not walk again when she was evaluated by a physical therapist. The therapist told her she was in great shape and would soon be walking even without a walker. With that bit of news, the gate was open and she began to have hope and work toward walking again. When we are sick or injured, it’s often difficult to see things from a different perspective, but when we do, we are often surprised at our potential to heal or experience joys that we didn’t know existed. Sometimes all it takes is opening the gate with a little encouragement, hope, gratitude or perseverance.
As I have shared in previous blogs, I am writing a book entitled, Because of 4. I’m sharing the process through my blog and plan to release it in August 2020. In my writing process, I often close the gate on myself. I wonder if it’s good enough to share, if anyone cares, if I’ll be able to figure out all the how to’s in order to publish. Some days it’s really difficult to keep going. My commitment to share this process and reveal the story to you is what drives me to work on it. I also remember how I was once the gatekeeper for the four young men in my story and what happened because I opened the gate.
Because of 4, I experienced what it means to open the gates and let students run and to give more of yourself in order to make a difference. When I first met the boys, I was attempting to find students to participate in an enrichment program that would help develop their gifts and talents. The traditional assessments we were using were not reaching students with different cultural and economic backgrounds. Yet, we knew that many of these students had abilities which could be nurtured. I began teaching lessons in classes, looking for students that showed a spark or an interest in the types of activities I shared. If I had stopped with my lessons in the classroom, I never would have opened the gate for the four boys. On the days I was in their classroom, they wanted nothing to do with what I was offering. Fortunately, I was able to see their true leadership potential during an incident in the cafeteria one morning.
As I think about it now, what happened as the boys left the cafeteria and ran to the hallway was very similar to my horse incident. Just like the horses in the neighborhood, they ran and bucked through the hallways. I remember having similar thoughts chasing after them as I did with my horses, “don’t let them get hurt and how am I going to catch them.” In a similar way to the horses settling to graze, the boys finally settled as I talked with them about the leadership skills I saw in them. Taming horses and boys requires an incredible amount of patience. Sometimes to truly understand their potential, all it takes is an open gate.
When it’s my horses – Close the GATE! But otherwise, I think we could all use a few less gates and some time to run free!
What gates are limiting you or others right now?
How might you open that gate and unlock the true potential?
Where can you find or give encouragement, hope, gratitude or perseverance?