In the Disney film UP , Carl ties a thousand balloons to his house in order to follow his childhood dreams. Armed with Russell, his 8 year old wilderness companion, the two blaze a trail of adventure and inspiration only to discover the truest treasures are those right in front of them.
As I thought about graduations this month, I thought of balloons. It only takes listening to the words of Kindergartners to bring back the seeds of hope that propelled us early in life. Like balloons, the goals and aspirations of young, innocent hearts reflect a sense of possibility.
One teacher I know, a seasoned educator, challenges students to believe in imagination, structure, creativity and love. At the end of the year, the students have carefully created pieces of love out of paper, glue and imagination - books with handprints and drawings of moms, dads, sisters and brothers.
The "End of the Year" Fashion show is the final culmination of their hard work. This is graduation day. It is not your usual cap and gown presentation but a presentation of what they hope to become. In preparation for graduation each student makes a large brimmed sunhat for their moms and colorful ties for their dads which will be worn as a type of entrance ticket to the show. Rather than elaborate costumes, students have picked out clothes from home that will represent their futures. Earlier in the week, each student verbalized to the teacher what they hope to do when they grow up. Those thoughts are written down; like a fashion show, each student walks down the isle to the words they spoke.
These hopeful words will include girls and boys that will become veterinarians, police officers, paleontologists, people that hunt for gold and silver, dancers, singers, mommies and daddies. Often citing friends in the class they will marry, each student describes their futures. Anywhere between 4 days to 40 years of education, they will eventually embark on lives of adventure. It will include families, traveling, living in exotic places. Each adult listening is ushered into a world of possibility and in it, find their own hopeful hearts.
These tools are useful at any age. As innocent and normal as a five year old can communicate, one boy mentioned that his father repeatedly tells him he is stupid and will never amount to anything. The class of five year olds quickly rallied behind him, challenging him with positive words of encouragement: "those are hurtful words"; "that must make you feel sad"; "I wouldn't say those words".
Does he choose the key?
From chasing the "Gingerbread boy" (the cookie that has escaped the "old ladies house" when she opened the oven door) to the arrival of May Flowers (a bouquet of paper flowers left in surprise), students are learning the soaring magic of imagination. "imagination makes great writers".
Gravity. Has your hopes and dreams been pulled down from the weight of life? Did hopeful seeds of youthful optimism, erode into barren fields of idle busyness? Do you go through the motions of life?
As I thought of balloons and dreams and the hopeful optimism of Kindergarten students, I thought of the little things that begin to pop those balloons. Balloons are filled with helium; it is difficult to contain them. They tug at the strings that hold them down; they long to float upward to the sky. Some balloons pop with an explosive sound, some escape their crowded grip and float freely away while others soar upward and onward. In the movie UP, 1000 balloons carry an old man's house to a far away land. So what does a balloon have to do with my story? Over time, the air diminishes in the balloon; they grow tired and weak and eventually succumb to gravity. They float back down to the ground.
There are scenes in a movie, chapters in a book, experiences in your life that you remember. I often come back to one sentence from a movie; it is from the Field of Dreams. Ray Kinsella says of his father, "I only saw him later when he was worn down by life". See the above movie clip.
My husband has always loved baseball and for a while collected baseball books. Owning a first edition W.P. Kinsella novel, Shoeless Joe. The book was adapted for a screenplay by Director, Phil Alden Robinson. The result was the movie Field of Dreams. Nominated for three academy awards, it stays strong in both our top 10 movies of all time. There are several noteworthy scenes I could use from this movie to illustrate this point but I chose this because we too can have eyes to see people differently.
As I watched a Kindergarten graduation, I thought of the journey that lay before them. Will they have the tools to succeed? Not just tools to succeed educationally and financially but emotionally and spiritually?
Whether Kindergarten, Sixth, Eighth, high school or college, it is graduation season. As quotes and speeches are read, I hope they have begun to embrace tools to equip and edify and that optimism meets dreams.
As you listen to Louis Armstrong's What A Wonderful World, imagine 1000 balloons; where will they take you?. Some are the dreams you had when you were little, some represent family, friends and experiences that encourage you. Like in the movie UP, allow those balloons to inspire what you once thought you had lost.
There is a challenge. Actually, two. It involves you and other people. In my chapter called Reflections, I talk about the influence other people have on you and your influence on other people. First...you too hold the magic key in your hands. No matter the age, you have the ability to "open" your heart and allow love to shine in. At the same time, you also can know when to "close" your heart to the words and actions of others.
Imagine it to be a window: one you freely open and close at your will. Secondly, if you are in a healthy place and have allowed the breeze of love to flow through your open window, you will have the energy to share it with others. You are surrounded by people every day and thereby have the opportunity to be a key for change in their lives.
Each of us has struggles. Find those places of joy that make you smile. From the beauty of being outdoors to the love of people surrounding you, choose the key that opens your heart.
A person who searches for depth and beauty in the simple things.