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The School of Hard Knocks

I have just returned from a trip to Southern California where I enjoyed Parent’s Weekend at Biola University with my granddaughter and daughter.

Secretly, I thought I would go to college one day to get my education, I didn’t expect it to be Parent’s Weekend.

Al swept me off my feet with all his charm and when I was seventeen I fell in love. I wanted to go to college, but you know how love is? It couldn’t wait. I always felt a college education was the one thing I lacked.

I stepped onto the college campus and I knew I could get into that thing I missed, “college life;” cute boys, dorms, no sleep, overloaded backpacks, and of course, studying.

I walked on the brick sidewalks where great men walked and I felt a tinge of envy. Those same sidewalks were leading young minds to greater knowledge.

I visited the library. I saw beautiful words written on the walls, a wealth of treasures sitting on the bookshelves, students studying, some with earphones, multitasking in their own cubical or at a library table. I pulled a few books from the shelves, just to get the feeling of higher education and how well-educated people must feel.

I found the Common Grounds Coffee Shop filled with students and laptops. I ordered a big cup of gourmet coffee and a bagel. What is it about gourmet coffee and places like that? The students and their books were sprawled out over chairs and sofas. The wall art was edgy, colorful, new and different and I thought, This is my place, I belong here. I sipped my coffee and lived my dream. I could see my art alongside the young artists of today.

I ate lunch in the cafeteria with my granddaughter and her friend. Her friend was going to college for a career in the film industry. I threw out a few names of founding fathers in the film media. She hadn’t heard of any of them. I thought how could you not know about them, they blazed a trail for you? In my excitement, I threw out my little knowledge, and of course, I was still living my dream, I drilled her as to what she knew and where her education was leading her. She looked at me bewildered.

I guess I stepped over the line. My daughter took her finger to her throat and made a cut-off motion. She was silently saying, “Enough!” It brought me up short. I was a guest. It was not my place to teach her what she didn’t know. I was immediately brought into reality.

The difference in ages began to creep up in other places too. The president of the university spoke, he must have been in his early forties. He was young enough to be my son. Aren’t presidents of colleges supposed to be old? Everywhere I looked everyone was getting younger.

A younger speaker brought it down to fun and illustrations. I thought, what a paradox, higher education brought down to children’s minds.

An older speaker spoke. His words were deep, rich, and lofty and I hung on to every word. It was obvious with all of his eloquent speaking some of the students were lost. Students were busy texting their friends, sleeping with their heads in their hands and some were just waiting to leave.

I walked out of the classroom with the students; some of their faces were drained in confusion. I asked a couple of the students, strictly out of curiosity, “What spoke to you?”

They said, “I didn’t get anything, he didn’t say anything to me.” I wanted to tell them what I learned, but they didn’t ask. I could have gone into a deep debate with them. The last thing they wanted was to match wits with someone’s grandmother.

My knowledge has come from the School of Hard Knocks. I learned there are no free meals. If I want something worthwhile I have to work for it. I have worked for things with no apparent benefits, it was just life and I needed to do it. I have made lots of mistakes, but I learned from them. I could have probably gotten a better job and better pay, but would I have loved my life any more? I don’t think so.

I also had to admit, when I was eighteen, I would have gone for the college life and not for the higher education. I only gained a desire for knowledge after years of living. Today I hunger for knowledge, but it was not until I attended the School of Hard Knocks that I saw what would have made life a little easier and richer.

So what is the difference between college of higher education and the School of Hard Knocks? After visiting Parent’s Weekend it put things in perspective for me; it also forced me to get real. Life didn’t go quite the way I thought it would, but I realized I have all I need for today to make my life complete.

Maybe it was the age gap. Maybe I have learned that going back to a pipe dream would not be the same. And I also learned it was The School of Hard Knocks that has afforded me the necessary things I need for my life today.

Final brushstroke: Learning or living? Some times one comes before the other.

Artist’s quote: “Attitude is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than what people do or say. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill.” — Charles Swindoll.