During our school's spirit week, I wrote about why I love and hate spirit week. I don't think I mentioned the all-time queen of "dress like a nerd" day, JWT. notice in the photo above the total commitment to her art -- the fake teeth (she kept in all day, to go with her "Well, actually, the ---" long descriptions of equations and formulas that had nothing to do with the question), the mismatched pig tales and sweater buttons, the tape between the lenses of her eyeglasses. She often had her clothes tucked in wrong and affixed toilet paper to her shoes.
A commitment to spirit week wasn't JWT's only or best contribution to Hotchkiss. Among other things, JWT was one of the first women instructors here, a phenomenal history teacher, and one of the founders of the American Studies program that helped shape our current Humanities program. She was a caring class dean, leader of the school service program, and a great colleague. She was also my teammate on the Salisbury Stingers -- a defensive powerhouse despite her tiny frame. She was a pianist, a writer, and a knitter. She was a wife, mother, and friend. She was the all-time best joke teller. I've put another photo of her below, so as you should appreciate her sense of humor in the shot above, you also get to see her beauty in the one below.
But I'm writing this post about her now because I've been thinking of the phrase she coined, OMAH: Open Minds and Hearts. There are so many times I have entered into situations and conversations thinking I already knew what would happen. Of course, my prejudgments, whether I knew about them or not, whether I acknowledged them or not, whether I embraced them or not, made some outcomes more likely than others. When I think I know what's about to happen, I can either make it happen or try to prevent it, both of which actions/thoughts cut off infinite other possibilities.
As class dean, Julia reminded her kids to enter into every moment with an open mind and an open heart. She had them hold their arms up over their heads to make a giant O. And she was so right. If I walk into each moment with curiosity and concern and care, I am better able to help or learn or figure out or wonder. I can do all things better when I don't allow myself the privilege and ignorance of assuming I already know.
We don't get to hang out with JWT any more, not in the dining hall or the locker room or the faculty room or in her living room with her sweet and well trained dogs, but I'm so lucky to have gotten to know her and to carry with me my OMAH lesson, one that continues to improve my life.
Please feel free to share a JWT story, joke, or lesson below. Or, if you didn't know her, do you have a similar person in your life who taught you an important lesson you cherish?