Monday, October 29, 2012

Assume the best intentions

An early Slice of Life post, in case power goes out later.
See more Slices at Two Writing Teachers.

My whole family is unexpectedly home today. Governor Patrick has declared a state of emergency and asked all school districts to close and businesses to have employees stay home.  Where we are in northeastern Massachusetts has not really been hit yet. It’s been raining, and the wind gusts up a bit sporadically, but right now there is no evidence outside my window to support a day off (it’s 11:00am). But, all I have to do is listen to the radio reports, check out a local news webpage or switch on the television, and the evidence is irrefutable.

This storm has given me a good opportunity to practice mindfulness. All around me I hear people complaining that officials are over-reacting, that weather reporters are paid to boost rating through sensational storm coverage. There is suspicion and anger in Facebook posts, responses to blogs, and notes on local media sites. So I’ve been thinking, what do I sound like?

It’s so easy to get caught up in negativity, especially when our routines are interrupted for reasons we can’t readily see as important. We are so overwhelmed, that we lash out, and the anonymity of most internet sites make us feel we can lash out with impunity.

At a meeting a few months ago, a woman suggested that we add to our norms and expectations list “Assume the best intentions.” I love that addition and have been trying to keep it in mind ever since.

Assume the best intentions. Amazing how powerful that thought is. When I’m in a meeting and can’t seem to find common ground, I flip to where I have that phrase printed on my notebook and I am better able to see a compromise. When I’m reading about policies that seem hateful and hurtful, I remind myself of this phrase and can better see the humanity in “the opposition,” though we may never agree on issues.

Today, it’s easy for me to assume the best intentions of the governor, the emergency personnel in my town, and the school superintendent who called off school. We have been through difficult storms before and no one wants to see a children hurt in a bus accident on the ride home from school.

I’m feeling safe in my little ranch house, miles away from the coast. We made some preparations for the potential of power outages (most importantly, I made cookies), but we’re not worried about flooding here. I’m taking the day to grade the essays I didn’t get to over the weekend and the girls are working on last minute Halloween costumes. They may even carve their pumpkins alter.

I’m also hoping to get to some of the household projects I never seem to have time for. Assume the best intentions.


  1. In 2007, when I was teaching in RI, school was dismissed early. But, it was too late after the storm began, which meant hundreds of kids were stranded on school buses for hours. After that, officials were fairly liberal when it came to closing the schools.

    I like the idea of assuming the best intentions. I think local and state officials really have good intentions when it comes to public safety.

    BTW: We're now in PA and it's gusting. The rain is falling. The trees are really blowing. Trust me... it's going to get worse.

    Here's to hoping you don't lose power!

  2. This is my absolutely most favorite motto of all time - I try my very very best to attend to that little whisper in my head as much as possible despite living in a world so full of push and pull between negative and more negative!

  3. Such an important mantra. Hope all is still well and you are dry and warm!