Burns night

If you’re aware of National Today, you know there’s a list of celebrations for every day on the calendar. Yesterday happened to be, among other things, National Macintosh Computer Day and National Compliment Day. Tomorrow is National Spouses Day—make it special!

I didn’t know, however, that tonight is Burns Night.

It honors the Scottish poet Robert Burns, born on January 25, 1759 (happy 263rd birthday, Rabbie). I have learned that Scots hold suppers on this evening, often with traditional dishes and bagpipes.

I’m not of Scottish descent but as I have loved Burns’ work since I was a teenager, I thought, in honor of Burns Night, I would at least share my favorite lines from his poetry. His best-known piece: the New Year’s song “Auld Lang Syne.”

My favorite Burns poem, however: “To A Louse.”

That’s right. The parasite. As in the tiny bug that infests your scalp. The horror of every school. Burns saw one crawling on a lady’s fancy bonnet at church and composed the rollicking verse, a particular delight to read or hear in the Scots dialect.

The lines that I have loved for most of my life come near the end of “To a Louse.” I find in them invaluable perspective:

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!

More easily understood as Oh, would some Power give us the gift of seeing ourselves as others see us…to “free us from blunders and foolish notions,” the poem goes on to specify.

Most often, though, the lines come to mind when I encounter people who just don’t seem to realize their incredible worth…and not just adults. Young people and children who struggle tremendously with self-image and self-esteem. I see them every day.

So on Burns Night especially, a prayer for them to see the beauty, power, and potential within. To see themselves as others see them. To know how much they are loved.

And a toast to the uplifting power of words.

Engraving of Robert BurnsDumfries Museum. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

I am


They’re so excited to see me, because this is Something New.

I come to kindergarten to support a new teacher and students struggling to master sight words.

Today, we work on am.

We read the word several times. I ask my six little friends at the table to think of sentences with the word am:

I am wearing a dress.

I am a boy.

I am eating a banana.

One little boy says, “I am a good reader.”

His face is full of light. Of hope. This is what he believes, that he is a good reader.

Dear God, never let anything squelch this hope. 

He is more than a data point

more than a projected

 subgroup statistic

 system failure

evaluation to be held against a school, a teacher.

I look at this child.

I say, “Yes. Keep reading, keep trying, and you will get better and better.”

He grins from ear to ear.

We keep working on am. We write the sentences that they compose themselves. I am writing them on strips as they write them on paper. They trace mine with a finger; I cut the words apart. I scramble and they reconstruct. We read a short book where I am recurs over and over.

“This is fun!” says another little boy, beaming.  “When will you come back?”

I am. I am. I am. I am. I am. I am.

Yes, you are.

You are here.

You are little human beings with a big future.

You are full of potential, possibility.

I am honored to have this time with you.