Two things were going on the first time I watched the movie, “The Matrix”. First, I was dazzled by the special effects. The whole time. As my friend Ben would say, “It is total eye-candy.” The second thing was me asking, “What’s going on?” The whole time.
In case you haven’t seen it, the movie is about a computer-programmer guy (I think), who somehow becomes involved in saving the world from becoming too digital, or non-digital (I’m not sure which). Most of the movie is spent in surreal action situations involving impossible fight scenes as the characters are transported (or teleported, or somehow-ported) from condemned buildings to the mother-ship, or to imaginary locations. At the end of the movie, our hero and his friends save the planet from becoming computerized (I think.) Lucky for me, I wasn’t asked to be a film critic for this movie.
What I do remember from the movie was how the main character, Neo, (whom I thought was named “Neil” for the first 90% of the movie…) gained a super-power at the end of the movie. He could see situations and actions in some sort of ‘binary code’ that allowed him to view things in slow motion. It was cool! What others saw as superfast motion such as the flight of a bullet, he saw as slow motion. Rather than seeing faces, buildings, and objects, he saw things as digital green zeros and ones- like he could see the ‘code’ that made up everything around him.
With this super-power, Neo (not Neil) was able to not only dodge bullets, but slow them down. He was able to use one arm (and talk on the phone, I think), while fighting a bunch of bad guys coming at him with guns, martial arts, and everything else. In short, he saw things that other people simply couldn’t.
So…. how’s “The Matrix” like making connections? As a physics and chemistry teacher, I spend much of my thinking time trying figure out how things work, such as rotating wheels, chemical reactions, and stuff like that. That’s no surprise to people who know me. Teachers and students know when I am in “physics or chemistry mode”- people have been known to come into my room and actually say things to me without me knowing it.
What surprised me the other day was how differently I was looking at things and situations as I walked down the hallway. For some reason, it was different than the other several thousand times I had done so before. No physics on the brain. No chemistry.
Instead of seeing individual students and their personalities, I was actually more aware of their problems. I was more aware of their gifts.
It started becoming more and more clear to me that for all of the troubles, struggles, and challenges some kids have, there are also kids who can serve to reduce their pain and suffering. I literally saw three kids in my 60 second walk of whom I know have some really tough things going on in their lives. I also saw just as many other kids who might be able to encourage, support, and sympathize with them. I started to truly see how it is possible to connect the encouragers and the supporters with the strugglers and sufferers.
I know a lot of people who have a good heart. And the way it gets revealed is when we ask them to help alleviate the suffering of someone else. To alleviate the loneliness, the anger, or the lack of self-worth. When an encourager recognizes that he or she can reduce someone else’s pain, amazing things happen. Truly beautiful things emerge. They give of themselves through working with others, writing letters, sharing of their time and resources, and more. What’s more, I’ve been able to witness how the encouragers and strengtheners discover qualities about themselves in the process- they learn about the solid, reliable, and honorable character traits they might not have known they possessed. They solidify what some of us suspected all along.
The encouragers come from all walks of life. Some have never suffered, some have, and some are currently suffering. Encouragers and strengtheners are able to sometimes see what others can’t: what sufferers and strugglers truly need to read, hear, see and feel. Like Neo, they are able to perceive a world that is invisible to others.
To the kids who give random or scheduled hugs, who write encouraging words, who stand up for good causes, who never question why we are helping others: Just know that some of us CAN see you using your super human powers.
-Chuck Benway, Lunch Bunch Co-creator