I come from a large family of educators. Hard working people with strong values who believe that learning is a life-long endeavor, that we must be open-minded, compassionate, and tolerant. That we must teach, mentor, and guide others as we not only bestow knowledge, but also evolve, redefine, and transform our own way of thinking…constantly challenging paradigms, looking at things from different perspectives, and in courteous and gentlemanly fashion, debate opinions, beliefs, and schools of thought as opposed to just accepting the status quo, or blindly accepting information as fact or doctrine.
The photograph in the picture you see before you is one of my favorites. It is of me and my father during a family beach trip when I was just a boy. As I was
for Captain Morgan’s treasure snorkeling, my mask kept fogging up, causing
me to surface and momentarily halt my meticulous scanning of coral and rock
along the clear, ocean floor. Seeing my frustration, my dad patiently came over
to help. He showed me how to ensure a proper seal and fitting, but he also
taught me that you could spit onto the glass inside the mask and spread the
saliva (preferably not with your fingers), to prevent the moisture build-up. I
watched intently as he dipped the mask in the water after coating it and then had
me put it back on.
I never questioned this unconventional problem-solving method because it hadn’t been the first time that he’d shown me how to troubleshoot on the fly. Miraculously, my mask didn’t fog up anymore, and I was able to get right back into the game, gazing at tropical fish, looking for seashells, and of course, the hidden treasures awaiting my discovery.
As is the case with most of these teaching moments, in hindsight, I realize how much more my father was really imparting than just that singular lesson. It wasn’t so much that one could simply prevent a mask from fogging up with spit, it was also, beyond the surface, a series of life lessons that I would eventually carry with me for the rest of my life. In the moment my dad took to show me a life hack, he embedded in my mind a way of thinking and looking at the world. He showed me that oftentimes there are unusual or unthought of ways of problem solving…essentially, how to think outside the box as it were. He demonstrated, that even out in the ocean devoid of tools, you can solve a problem using your immediate environment, or even your own body, but that you have to look, be open-minded, and willing to accept that your answer might lie where you least expect it.
This picture is on my dresser for the specific reason to remind me at the dawn of each day to remain open-minded to new ways of thinking, to challenge conventional paradigms, to seek and impart knowledge, and to be compassionate and patient with others who may be struggling to solve a problem to which I know the answer. This photograph serves as an aide-mémoire to always look in unexpected places for a solution, to help others whenever possible, and that even out at sea, without tools or technology, you can not only defog a snorkeling mask, but that oftentimes, the greatest treasures in life are not buried in the sand or even found under the sea at all.