This I Believe

Robert - Baltimore, Maryland
Entered on November 5, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: humility

I believe in looking up. No, I don’t mean looking on the bright side, though that may happen, but I really mean raising your head high and gazing at the world in front of you. Like a lot of my beliefs, this one was shaped by my parents, especially my father. Dad noticed early on that I had a tendency to hunch and droop my head while walking or speaking, and he encouraged me to straighten up and look up and out at the people I was talking to.

Like a lot of my beliefs, looking up is something I must constantly remind myself to put into practice, as I continue to practice bad posture, especially when I am tired or sad. Yet when I do lift my head up and see things for what they truly are, the results are extraordinary. This perspective gives me a sense of where I am and where I should be going. Despite years in the boy scouts, I’ve never been skilled at directions or maps. I’ve compensated by looking up and finding tall landmarks to be my guide. Like some ancient sea captain navigating from the stars in the sky, I navigate from the sky scrapers. In the years I called New York City my home, I was never lost or intimidated by the great city. All I had to do was look at the Empire State Building to the North and the World Trade Center to the South and I was on my way.

Looking up also gives me an awareness of when things are not right or require my attention. It could be as visceral as when I cross a busy intersection, or as subtle as detecting the vacant stares in the students I teach indicating that my lecture has gone on far too long. A second look may indicate that a student may not be bored, he is actually hurting inside and needs someone to talk to, or for someone to simply say hello to him.

Finally, when I keep my head up I can see so much of a world that is so beautiful and vulnerable. I left New York eight years ago. On a visit to the big city three years later, I looked up from my place on the New Jersey Turnpike to see the familiar sights of the New York skyline. My gaze stopped suddenly as I noticed the line of buildings end abruptly, with a cavernous space peering out like a missing tooth in an otherwise healthy mouth. That tooth didn’t fall out, it was knocked out, and my faithful sentinel was gone forever. Today my best guides are my two children. When I look up and see them, in whatever mood they may be, I know I am in the right place. So I believe that when we are down or tired, the best medicine may be to look up. We may see something ordinary, like a bird or a plane. But you never know when you’ll catch something super.