Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Do You Want a Do-Over?

This is one of my all time favorite movies! I've watched it over and over again (and again). Lately I've been thinking about second (third, and even fourth) chances. A chance to try again. A chance to start over. A chance to finally get it right. A chance to remake my world the way I want it. Do you want a do-over?

Playing kick ball in the streets of my neighborhood growing up, we asked for and permitted do-overs during normal play. It was expected. As kids we were pretty generous with grace, as odd as that might seem. Kids are usually pretty selfish (aren't we all?). But we all knew what it felt like to kick at the ball and only find air, or even worse, fall flat on our bottoms. Even the best kick ball player on the block knew what kicking air felt like, so it made it easy to ask for a do-over.

My students really appreciate do-overs, although sometimes it's hard to get them to ask for one. Their school careers thus far have taught them that there's only one right way to do something and if you do it wrong, you've lost your chance to do it right. My desire is for them to learn what they need to learn, no matter how many times it takes. So if they turn in a paper and it's not quite right, I offer them the chance to redo it. They have as many chances as I can offer. Unfortunately, I don't have unlimited chances to give. I actually have a timeframe we all need to work within. A semester is only so long.

When the kick ball game is over, or the semester comes to a close, we run out of chances to begin again. Life is like that - it's finite.

Bill Murray's character, Phil Conners in Groundhog Day, finally realizes that this recurring day is a gift and not a curse. He sees these second chances to "do it right" as a way to improve the relationships he has with those around him. He gets a chance to apologize, to make a lifelong friend, to save a life, to learn a new skill, nurture an old talent, and pursue the love of his life. The fact that he relived February 2 for many years helped him, slowly but surely, become a better version of himself.

My motto is a quote from Abraham Lincoln - "Little by little does the trick." I may not be able to take a do-over of this life, and there are people who may never give me a second chance, but over its course I have an opportunity to improve how I do what I do: how I live, how I love, and even how I laugh.

Little by little. . .

And like Phil Connors who learned how to play the piano and get his medical degree over time, I've learned some things too with the gift of time I've been given. I laugh out loud now. This in itself will make those who know me well smile.

Do you want a do-over? I may not be the Creator of grace, but I can help distribute it. Like papers a student helper hands out to the rest of the class, we can all raise our hands and volunteer for the task.

When you're given a second chance, don't squander it. And when you're given the chance to offer grace, don't walk away from it. The life you save may be your own.

Do you need a do-over?