The learning never stops

"I'm taking jazz appreciation with Stan Jackson," my mother informed me. "You mean my Mr. Jackson?" I asked.

I should be used to it by now, but somehow it still surprises me that my mother - who taught in the town where we lived - knows all my former teachers by first name.

"Yes, your Mr. Jackson," she said. "He's retired and teaches adult ed now."

I was in seventh grade when Mr. Jackson arrived at our school. He and a young colleague worked hard that year to engage us in music appreciation, but we were self- conscious 12-year-olds.

Even when the two teachers wrote out the lyrics to a beloved rock song and invited us to discuss their meaning, we all sat in stony silence.

I actually burned to ask questions - there were so many things in that song I had never understood - but somehow doing so would have been too uncool.

So, like my classmates, I kept my hand down.

It's a mistake my retiree mother would never make. All winter she eagerly attended Mr. Jackson's class, even tramping through 20-inch snow drifts to get there. She listened to John Coltrane and Billie Holliday, asked plenty of questions, and enjoyed every minute.

Sometimes it's not until later in life that we have the focus, enthusiasm, and freedom from fear to fully open up to learning.

And that's why it's inspiring to read a story like Jeff MacDonald's piece on advocacy this week, which tells of senior citizens who are willing to embrace new skills and experiences in order to support causes they care about.

They are an inspiring group of learners. I'm sure my mom would fit in perfectly.

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