We make our lives with our decisions and actions. We co-create our reality with our thoughts and actions. We also make our life families; our blood family is a given, and also, lest we forget, extends back to the beginning. We are really all connected and interconnected as one big family of humanity.
Yet, those we feel are like-family or family-like, are due to our desires to cultivate friendships that feel so right, like we are already connected. Once in awhile upon meeting someone, we instantly know we have met a kindred spirit, a soul mate, a brother from another mother, or a past life relative. In these crazy, mystical or mysterious friendships age is not a factor. Every so often a student of mine comes into my life in this way. With thirty years of teaching and thousands of students I’ve instructed, I have a nice handful of students who fall into this category.
This past weekend Celina and I went to Utah for the wedding of a student of mine from the early nineties, while I lived and taught in New York. I worked with Zach for a number of years in a very intensive way. Then he and his family moved to Detroit. But I had the good fortune of meeting and working with Zach in his very formative years of 5-10 years of age. I also got to remain friends and in contact with him and his family as I would travel back to Michigan each year to visit with my family. Zach was a special, unique individual and I learned much from teaching him.
To see Zach at his wedding, to toast he and his lovely bride, to share in this special ritual of our culture with he and his family and friends, was very meaningful to both Celina and I. Zach went on to become a writer for the Letterman Show and now is working with Stephen Colbert. He had this level of talent early on, it was clear he was going to go places, as the saying goes.
Moreover, Zach still has a huge heart and a selfless attitude in his daily life. He is humble and kind, but oh so talented and brilliant. To have had a hand in his development is what teaching is all about for me. These were my early days of teaching children and I was exploring how much I could do with kids and how much they could do. Zach taught me a lot! He was fearless and resilient. He was spontaneous and hard working. He was generous and strong. He taught me not to underestimate my young students. I learned from Zach that if I would only find ways to free the kids to be themselves and allow them to be confident, they would never let me down. On the contrary, they would make me look better that I really was. And I got to see them flourish!
How lucky I am to have such unique friendships, over decades now, with some of my young students who have grown up to be today’s leaders and contribute so much. My former students are on and off Broadway, in Movies and on TV, at Google and other tech companies, teaching in universities and private schools, Social Workers, in the Peace Corps. . . they are all over doing all sorts of cool things.
I can only imagine, in year’s time, which of my students of today I will still be in touch with and call friends . . . our extended families are an important part of meaningful relationships in our lives. More than any part of material existence, these extended-family-friendships provide us with inner life, security, and stability.