New York Times columnist David Brooks is everywhere right now. He’s appeared on the Sunday Morning News shows, Charlie Rose, and (of course) the PBS News Hour. He will even be in Oakland on Saturday as part of Notes and Words where he will read from his new book, The Road to Character. He recently adapted an essay from that book and published it in the Times as an Op-Ed piece entitled “The Moral Bucket List”.
I was interested in the article because I had seen some of the TV interviews, but my interest heightened when I read his comments about “stumblers”. (Does he read my blog?) Brooks notes that “[t]he stumbler scuffs through life, a little off balance. But the stumbler faces her imperfect nature with unvarnished honesty”. (Is Brooks spying on me? Have we met? How does he know that this stumbler is a she?)
Naturally, I identified with the feeling of being “off-balance”, and while I can’t promise “unvarnished honesty”, I appreciate the reminder to confront my weaknesses with honesty and kindness. Yet the most gratifying sentence of the article (for me) appeared in the last paragraph where Brooks wrote, “[t]he stumbler doesn’t build her life by being better than others, but by being better than she used to be.” In these words, I recognized an idea that I try to encourage in myself and my students. I remind all of us that we probably can’t be perfect, but we can be better than we were yesterday, even if only a little bit. So, thanks to David Brooks for the reminder that stumbling can still be progress.