We count people every ten years, and the lesson we should all glean is "people ... count." They really do, even in seemingly small and insignificant ways. So the question for all of us is how do we count? In what ways do we choose to matter? That idea is the lesson of the day for my students as we begin our study of Paulo Cohelo's The Alchemist. And I begin with a short journal/quick-write from an essay by Robert Fulghum (of All I Need to know ... Kindergarten).
Fulghum tells the story of counting people, then offers some whimsical ideas about people and "matter," and then he puts an interesting twist on the scientific principle of Locard's Exchange Principal. Following that theory, Fulghum posits that "Every person passing through this life will unknowingly leave something and take something away." Basically, no one can exist without impacting the larger system, and, in reality, everything we do or don't do changes the world in small but mysteriously significant ways.
So, I ask my students with a quote from poet Mary Oliver, knowing that everything matters, and you represent a distinct and significant presence in the world: "What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"