Michael McCarthy

Glowing: from Michael McCarthy’s Blog

Sail on Silver Girl,
Sail on by
Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way
~ Simon & Garfunkel “Bridge Over Troubled Water”

(Michael McCarthy teaches at the Mary Louis Academy, a college preparatory high school for young women.)

I think of the first time I met Kellie. On an early September morning she walked into my homeroom wondering who I might be, but I believe she mostly came to make a connection. It was my first year back to the classroom after 17½ years. Exuberance and kindness radiated from her fresh smile. Kellie was going to be in my sophomore religion class. Yeah, she was checking me out. But beyond that, she was giving me permission to be her teacher. Kellie believed in me and wanted to learn from me – I saw it in her smile. She was engaged in life and ready to absorb what the world had to offer. Kellie was a teacher’s dream; she was open and generous in the most profound ways. Her spirit of love is contagious. Why was I so lucky that Kellie stepped into my classroom – into my life?

Mairee. I’ll never forget her. Were our paths meant to cross? When someone lets you into their pain, something extraordinary happens. It was a mid-February winter’s day when Mairee sat down at her desk and I saw in her eyes a hurt I never witnessed before. Life had handed her a terrible blow. Somehow, our souls connected at that moment. Two unlikely persons united by tears. She trusted me to listen – to be present. She let me into her life’s circle. Mairee’s vulnerability and fragileness exuded a wonderful brilliance and unexpected strength. We were entering the mystery of our humanness. Love absorbed us. What a strange, powerful, and surprising privilege for me to experience the utter joy and deep pain of compassion. This young woman was teaching me to reach out, to care, to touch, and to be touched. Yes, Mairee!

Oh, little Kristen with her cheery and sweet disposition. “Good morning Mr. McCarthy, how are you?” she gladly and boldly proclaims when entering the classroom. Kristen is a young woman of her generation, but could easily have been a flower child of the 1960s – – Beatle’s music, freedom, and feeling groovy. She’s really cool, not because she is a modern day hippie, but because she is self-possessed. Kristen knows who she is. And she is respectful, smart, witty, and delightfully playful. Kristin exudes a curious mind and an adventuresome spirit. She seems to have the wherewithal to rise above and survey a situation. She doesn’t easily get trapped in conformity. Kristen lives in the culture, but is not of it. “Have a good day Mr. McCarthy,” she utters with a big grin and big heart as she leaves the classroom. Wow, I just like her a lot.

Kellie, Mairee, and Kristin are beautiful young women. They glow! Their beauty radiates inside out, outside in.


Do human beings long for beauty? What actually is beauty? Is beauty all around us? What’s pleasing to your senses?

The abundance of teeming life in late June on Long Island is marvelous. The sweet smell of summer is in the air – in my soul. The dark green leaves that always emerge at this time of year on the old solid trees allow me to trust in what is. Upon a closer examination, I come to see the many shades of green leaves dancing in the breeze. There is indeed a delightful mosaic of nature’s design. Birds sing their playful song with conviction. Bright yellow flowers stand tall and bold. So grateful for the taste of life which I have been given. I savor the deliciousness of sacred moments in which I can not describe. And with all this I know sunny summer days suddenly turn cloudy and stormy. Summer fades into autumn. Winter can be cold. Round and round we go. Yes and no. Joy and pain intertwined. It all belongs. Paradox prevails. Mystery thrives. Each one of us is enveloped in something very big.

What is it we really hear? There’s so much noise out there. There’s so much noise inside. Is it static or symphony? Is beauty subjective and in the “ear of the beholder”? Listen closely, beauty resounds.

What is it we really see? Could it be that beauty is hidden in plain sight? That beauty is everywhere, staring right back at us. Beauty abounds, if we dare look closely and courageously. It’s about seeing what is really there. It’s allowing the entity (person, place, or thing) to reveal oneself/itself to us. It’s the practice of seeing with the eyes of one’s soul. Beauty is about oneness. It’s about experiencing the interconnectedness of all persons and things. Serendipitously, we come to realize that everything and everyone is intimately linked – – and at these moments our senses are deeply satisfied. We have encountered beauty.

The dynamic pulse of creation invites wonderment and amazement. All is united in the mystery and sacredness of what is. I believe in my student’s beauty. I intentionally look for it. Each of my students, in her particular colorfulness, glows with a light that can warm the heart and please the soul. Like a dad who holds his baby for the first time, he sees in her an immense beauty. In truth, the little child is beautiful.

“Everywhere there is tenderness, care, and kindness, there is beauty,” writes John O’Donohue. Beauty and love are kissing cousins. Kindness reminds us of our kinships. We long for affection. Each one of us wants to be noticed. We deeply desire to be found out – to be known. Beauty, in a certain sense, takes hold of us. If we allow it, beauty will unfold. “Each of us is responsible for how we see, and how we see determines what we see,” says John O’Donohue.” Out of what lens do you see? My life has been greatly enriched by seeing the beauty of the many students I have encountered over the years. Their beauty has been illuminating. They shine and in their reflection I have come to believe in my own beauty, as well. Beauty glows in the embers of our communal hearths.



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