Don Quixote, that funny knight with an idealistic dream and a penchant for tilting at windmills, has been a favorite of mine since childhood.
It's not the man himself or his impossible dream that captures my imagination, but the effect he had on one person. In the play, Don Quixote and his faithful squire, Sancho, come to an inn where the idealistic knight-errant discovers his ideal lady – Dulcinea – in the form of Aldonza, the serving maid.
He is smitten with the beauty, goodness, and purity that he perceives in her. Since Aldonza seems to be anything but good and pure, everyone is sure that he is crazy.
But crazy or not, Don Quixote persists in holding this pure and good view of her even as Aldonza herself insists that it isn't true.
In the end, Aldonza responds to that unconditional and pure love and realizes her own need of that elevated view in order to be lifted out of her degrading life. She not only sees the possibility of a changed life, but takes steps to fulfill that dream.
To me that speaks of salvation and the possibility that we all have of rising above troubling conditions and circumstances.
When I first started teaching, I was given a classroom of third graders in an inner-city school. The school had been open for three years, and the teacher turnover rate was well over 50 percent. The kids were accustomed to being viewed as acting belligerently, performing below grade level, and being just plain awful.
That first year was difficult for me to say the least. The principal had her doubts as to whether I would make it through that year. I did. But during the summer, I didn't think I could do it again. Something had to change. So I began to pray.
I knew that God didn't see those children as belligerent or incapable of learning. He loved them. He made them in His own image and likeness as the Bible states (see Gen. 1:26, 27). I was the one who had to have a different view and see them as God saw them – incapable of anything but goodness and purity.
The Christian Science textbook by Mary Baker Eddy, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," which I study in conjunction with the Bible, states: "Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals. In this perfect man the Saviour saw God's own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick" (pp. 476-477).
I saw that I, too, could look beyond the surface and see the innate goodness and purity of each child in my classroom.
As I began to let go of what my eyes showed me and strove instead to see God's children, they responded to my love, patience, kindness, and the expectation that they could and would do well in their academics.
This is not to say that suddenly my classroom became an ideal place. But within that room, the children felt safe, valued, and cherished. The higher view of them helped lift their own expectations, and they began to act more in accordance with those elevated ideals.
Not only that, as I took the stand for higher ideals in my room, the other teachers also began taking their stands for higher ideals, and within just a couple of years, the teacher turnover rate dropped considerably.
When I left that school seven years later, the children were making normal progress, and belligerence and failure were exceptions, rather than the norm.
To me, this statement from "Science and Health" sums up this approach: "We must form perfect models in thought and look at them continually, or we shall never carve them out in grand and noble lives" (p. 248).
No wonder I love the story of "The Man of La Mancha" – I've found that the impossible dream is not so impossible after all.