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August 16, 2019

Mind in the Making: Holding a Safe Space with Team Fantastic

Photos of animals have been randomly placed on walls around the room. Participants have been asked to look at all of them and then stand by the animal that most represents them. George, a retired minister who now mentors young students in an elementary school classroom, has chosen to stand by the photo of a Zebra. When asked if he would be willing to share with the group why he chose Zebra, his reply is twofold. “First of all, I simply love Africa.” It is the most favorite spot he has traveled to in his life, and while on safari he was deeply moved by the Zebras. “Did you know that when a herd of Zebra is grazing, two Zebras back their bodies up to one another so that they appear to be a 2-headed animal?” George then goes on to share that the reason for this is to protect the herd by confusing predators who do not recognize a two-headed beast. “These two animals will place themselves in front of the herd, almost in a horseshoe fashion, to keep predators at bay. They will literally create a barrier and provide a safe space for the other members of the herd to be nourished and thrive,” George explains. “I chose Zebra because this is how I feel about my own role in life. Providing a safe space for others to be nourished and thrive is what makes me feel most alive.”

There is a ripple that runs through the group as every single one of us completely relates to what George said and how he has said it. The feeling is palpable as the common thread between us all reveals itself in just such a moment and in just such a way that we all realize exactly who we are and why we are in this room together. It is as if somehow, someway, it is no accident that we are all here to experience this feeling. Some will call it an Aha! moment. Others will call it a God moment. And still, others may reflect on it as a moment of pure alignment. Any way you look at it, it is a gift, and we all know it.

Twenty preschool educators, their director, and two grandparent volunteers for a local elementary school have gathered in a conference hall at First Presbyterian Church in Sarasota, Florida, to learn and grow together through sharing the science that is Mind in the Making. Some in attendance are members of this congregation, while others are not. All are here because of our unwavering desire to provide the children of this community with a foundation of love, tools, and support that they will need to navigate their young lives and education. With an interactive curriculum developed by Ellen Galinsky that covers the Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs as our compass, we are led to new levels of understanding in the areas of early learning via Focus and Self Control; Perspective Taking; Communicating; Making Connections; Critical Thinking; Taking on Challenges; and Self-Directed, Engaged Learning.

As both guide and participant on this Mind in the Making journey, I can reveal that not everyone chose Zebra as their animal representative this weekend, yet everyone was innately a Zebra, and so much more. The pure and absolute willingness of these ordinary people to access and reflect on their own abilities and vulnerabilities to have a lasting positive impact on our children is poignant and powerful stuff.  George gave us the words for our common ground. Mind in the Making gave us the direction, path, and courage to integrate and begin to create the new realities we all know are possible.

Congratulations Team Fantastic!

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