The Waiting Place (January 4)

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Have you ever read Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss? It is often given to high school grads, which makes perfect sense. When I first started teaching, I used to read it in June to Kindergarteners and to 5th or 6th graders, whichever my oldest grade level was. I wanted to pass off some of the book’s wisdom to my students, with one part in particular that I felt was the most important. In the book, Dr. Seuss writes about this depressing place where the main character, “you,” ends up spending a little time, The Waiting Place. The typical Seussian illustration likens it to a drably colored DMV, with all types of people just waiting and looking void of joie de vivre. I taught in a district where many of the students lived in poverty, and I just felt like, if I could just get them to acknowledge and identify The Waiting Place, maybe they could recognize it when they see it and minimize any time spent in it. And we all know lots of people in that place, don’t we? Waiting for the bus to come, waiting for another chance, everyone is just waiting, he writes. And then finally, Dr. Seuss gives you a literary slap in the face on a page turn: “No! That’s not for you! All that waiting and staying!” And off “you” go to see more things and live life with zest.

I felt like I had access to lots of examples in my youth of people living in The Waiting Place for extended periods of time. And I just thought, I’ll be damned if I do that. I couldn’t stand the thought of just existing and not truly living, thriving. Of course, these are idealistic thoughts of a young person, but I think just having that awareness of The Waiting Place and being able to identify it when you see it is key. Once you can see it for what it is, I think it’s human nature to fight it and to advocate for yourself by doing whatever it takes to get out. I’m not sure how effective my reading of the book to my students was, but I’m hoping that if any of them were exposed to The Waiting Place and were being suctioned into it, they fought back. And likely, they were, because The Waiting Place is everywhere.

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