Tuesday, May 31, 2011
The Best We Can
"We do the best we can. That's all there is." I've been getting through year-end projects and tests with a little help from Netflix. Working the rubrics and numbers while mostly listening (as opposed to watching) to Raising the Bar, a short-lived series about a group of friends who work either in the public defender's office or the D.A.'s office in New York City. I remember watching one or two episodes when it aired on TNT originally (2008), but I never got into the swing of it, mostly because I was too busy trying to juggle both administrative and teaching responsibilities. That's no life. I see that now in retrospect...
Anyway, the show got me through what can otherwise be very tedious work, entering numbers, checking them two and three times to make sure it all adds up (even though I use an electronic gradebook). Tonight's line that hit the mark sits at the top of this piece: We do the best we can. That's all there is. What hits home about this is the reality of working with people. You do the best you can. Sometimes that doesn't feel like enough, but if it's your best, it's all you can do. And if you're going to have any peace of mind, you have to find a way to live with that without beating yourself up about it.
The lawyers in this show struggle with that. They struggle with doing the right thing for justice' sake or mercy's sake. They struggle to feel good about themselves when they aren't always sure they're doing the right thing. They follow the law, they do their best. But is it right? That happens in teaching, too. You have young people's lives, their futures, in your hands. You do your best. But what if that's not enough? You weigh justice and mercy. You make a choice. You gamble on the future. Their future. Sometimes it pays off. Sometimes you pay. Or worse, they do.
If you do the best you can, that has to be enough. That is all there is. Right?