Sunday, July 31, 2011

Lessons come in many packages - aka "The Philosopher Kings"

I am not one for documentaries. I seldom read non-fiction books, I tend not to watch non-fiction TV shows or movies (reality TV doesn't count as non-fiction, folks) and news shows are not typically on my radar, 60 Minutes not withstanding.

But I love stories. Any type of story, actually. I will sit and listen to someone tell the story of their life if they do a good job at telling it for the value of a story is truly in the telling. I am not sure what led me to watch "The Philosopher Kings", it falls into that documentary category that I tend to avoid. Whatever the hook was in the blurb on Hulu, I am glad it worked. The stories told in this movie are wonderful.

Each of the custodians in this movie has a story and a unique way of telling it. They are humble, proud of their work, diligent and more human than many people I have met in my life. Each has faced a major life changing event be it an accident that took a limb, a parent who faced a major illness or even a hurdle they placed in their own way. Regardless of their challenge, they have each faced it head on and worked hard to move forward.

"The Philosopher Kings" is a wonderful series of stories told in a bit of a Real World format (film crew following everywhere, producers/directors asking questions off screen and responses from the subjects cut together in a way that tells the stories the filmmakers want to project) without the drama of RW and all it's descendants. There were two who's stories struck a chord with me. The first is Corby Baker, a custodian at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, WA. His love of art and his talent are nurtured by his choice of vocations. If it were not for his position at Cornish College of the Arts he would most probably not be pursuing his desire to create art. He's got an interesting voice too, even if he doesn't see it in himself. The second custodian to strike me is Josue Lajeunesse who works at Princeton University during the day and drives a cab at night. He pushes himself this hard so many, many people can live. He is the son of a farmer from La Source, Haiti - an impoverished town in the mountains of Haiti where there is no fresh water, or at least there wasn't at the time of filming. Josue's money goes back to Haiti to support 15 family members and to help build a way for fresh water to flow to the town in which he was born. He says he is poor. I think he is probably richer in spirit than many people.

These are the men and women we didn't notice as we walked the halls of our universities and colleges unless we were really smart and realized they had something to teach us as well. I was lucky. I went to a really small, private college where I quickly learned that my lessons would come from everyone there, not just the professors. I think in a way we all learned that lesson quickly when we got to Macon. From the cheerful, wonderful women in the book store (Barclay DuPriest and team) to the women who cleaned our dorms to Champe - everyone had something to teach us even if we couldn't always understood what they were saying. They came to work every day, did their work, gave us a smile, an encouraging word and made sure we had what we needed so we could concentrate on what we had been sent to school to do.


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