When I was a kid, every night at dinner my dad would ask us, my brothers and I, “What did you learn today?”
Sometimes it would be a struggle to answer him– we would push our green beans or corn around our plates while mentally sifting through the day, scrambling for a “good” answer. Those nights, our answers would be something about a grammar rule or a mathematic formula or (this would be my brother) how it turns out that calling the teacher by his first name doesn’t go over well.
Sometimes we would already be bursting with news to share. I learned about the craziest guy in history! I’d say, and start describing a 200-year old story. One of my brothers would offer up a weird fact about science. We’d come away from dinner knowing a little something more about the world than we did before.
But then there were those times when we would hear dad’s question, and all of a sudden realize, yes! I did learn something today! Something I read in a book, or heard in class, or stumbled across on the internet. Something a friend told me, or something I’d observed. The moment I realized I had learned something new while having what I thought was an ordinary, boring day, made the humble threads of daily life seem brighter somehow, and more worthy of attention.
I started anticipating dad’s question, and I would try to think of what I’d learned that day before he got home from work. Looking for what I was learning as I meandered through my day, changed the way I experienced the world around me. It gave me a sense of ownership in my own experience of learning and living.
What did you learn today? That question struck me out of the blue today.
What did you learn today? I learned that 1869 is the first year woman got the right to vote in America– kudos to the state of Wyoming!
What did you learn today? I learned that well-intentioned white feminists can shut out the voices and experiences of women of color by being ignorant, by ignoring the experiences of all women, by hiding in guilt, by failing to put aside ego and fear and privilege to ask all women what they need and to truly listen.
What did you learn today? I learned that I will never be too organized, too mature, or too experienced to chase after a bus.
What did you learn today? This is a question I am going to start asking myself every day. I’m going to start journaling about this, and see where it takes me. The days I scramble for anything to write, I will know I need to work harder at searching out knowledge. The days I am fired up with pocketfuls of learning, I will know what I care about enough to focus on more. And the days I find the unexpected staring back at me, wry eyes reflecting the knowledge that was there all along– ah, those are the days I know that life has more to it than we let ourselves remember.
So… What did you learn today?