According to my calendar, today is Teacher’s Day. I don’t think it’s the same as Hindus’ Guru Poornima, which is a day set aside to revere our teachers. Nevertheless, it’s still a day I like. There is something nice about taking a moment to reflect on those who have shown us the way and give thanks to them.
Teachers come in all shapes and forms, if only we have the openness to recognize them and learn from them.
One of my most vivid memories of an unexpected teacher is about a snail.
I learned about perseverance from an insistent snail in the gardens of my Sri Lankan home. At the time, I was in high school, feeling like my life was stuck and not going anywhere. In typical melodramatic teen angst, I wondered about the futility of it all. As I sat, morosely, on the front verandah, my eye caught a moving lump.
It was a small snail, lumbering heavily with its shell on its back. Determinedly, it slid forward, millimeter by millimeter. For several minutes, I followed its progress. Bored at first, I slowly became fascinated by it; I marvelled at the tenacious way in which it kept going, at its own pace, unaffected by the speedy ants scurrying past it. It didn’t give up or get frustrated by the infinitesimally limited way in which it was covering ground. It kept going. Eventually, maybe it had been 20 minutes, it crossed the narrow paved walkway and joined the grassy lawn, blending into the tall grass.
I looked up into the starry night sky and took a deep breath. The universe had just revealed a profound truth to me. Keep going, the snail said. That is the most important thing. Keep going because this is the only way in which you will reach your destination. No matter the seeming pointlessness of it, no matter how much better others seem to have it, keep going. You will reach your shore, in your own time, in your own way.
So, this Teacher’s Day, I dedicate it to the little brown snail that taught me a fundamental lesson of life.