This past weekend, I was driving down a street in the city that has a stop light at every corner. If you get a certain rhythm going, you can either pass through all green lights or you get stopped at all red lights. Right in front of me was a police car and our rhythm was such that we were getting all red lights. After this happened about three times, the officer started to turn on his lights and cruise through the red lights. He didn’t have anywhere he had to be as we remained behind each other for the length of the entire street. Then he turned off into a Dunkin Donuts! (I shit you not!)
Needless to say, that use of his “power” made me a bit angry. As I drove off to my destination, it got me thinking about the varying levels of power we all possess. What power do I actually possess? How do I use it . . .for good or for evil? Who benefits or suffers? How do I feel about myself and this “power” I hold?
Yesterday I found myself in a classroom where the teacher was five minutes late for class. Upon entering the room, she kicked off her shoes and found a seat on top of an empty desk. After running through her syllabus, one student asked her policy on bringing food into class and another asked about her cell phone policy. Her answer to both was: “Your success depends on what YOU put into this class. I am here to guide you, what you do with your time in here is completely up to you.”
Yet another way to use one’s power, I thought. Though the teacher was officially charged with leading her class, her approach was to give most of the control to her students. Control? Or freedom? It will be interesting to see what this group does with their ability to have power over themselves. I prefer to call that integrity. How do we conduct ourselves when not being watched or judged?
I used to work in a school that gave the young students a hefty amount of power. They could go anywhere they wished at lunchtime, without checking with an adult. It was understood they would get themselves to classes on time, without a bell system. If a “rule” was broken, there was a conversation, but very rarely a consequence. For students who grew up with this system from the earliest of ages, it seemed to work quite well. For those who were brand new to the system, it was confusing and overwhelming and quite often, they found themselves in more trouble than they could have ever fathomed themselves to be.
Where is the line drawn when it comes to how much power one really holds? I understand that the goal of that particular school was to teach the young people of the power they have over themselves. And although I believe in that philosophy, I struggled quite a bit with too much power being given to young people who just were not ready for all that freedom. Yes, it worked in favor for many, but some, it just did not work very well. But how do you give some one set of freedoms and others not so much?
And there we find ourselves in the debacle of this world in which we live. And how do we navigate through that? And help our children to do the same?
I do the best I can to live my life with integrity. To do what I think to be the best I can do in any situation, regardless of someone watching me or left completely on my own. In the end, I need to answer to myself and to my God. How will it feel to look in the mirror? How will it feel to be in my final resting place and need to look back on the way I used my God given power?