Author’s Photo

Untapped

Did you know it takes forty gallons of sap from a maple tree to produce one gallon of maple syrup?

To capture the photo above, I removed the collection bag from the spile. In so doing, I dashed the potential of several sap droplets. They would not become part of the golden, sweet and sticky liquid loved by pancake aficionados everywhere.

It’s a cool picture though, right? A couple of drops won’t make a difference. The picture was a good trade-off.

The potential of sap is not — was not, easy to see.

I’ve been thinking a lot about potential lately — for myself and others. I’ve been wondering how much potential is lost because it is not recognized. How much potential is sacrificed for fear of the unknown?

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the movies with a friend. I wanted to see . I just love talking dogs. My friend doesn’t. She wanted to see . I didn’t. We compromised on .

I did see a week later, and even though it was good — I took more meaning from the story of the black, female computers in .

Numerous pioneering women played an integral role in NASA’s space exploration during the 1960’s and beyond. Katherine Johnson, the movies protagonist, is featured performing complex mathematical computations on a chalkboard in an opening scene. She looks to be about nine or ten years old. Her skill with math — her potential — was visible to her educators and parents. Steps were taken to nurture Katherine’s gift. She went on to break through racial barriers at NASA because of her skill and potential. In the movie, there is a scene between Katherine and John Glenn. He trusted Katherine’s ability, over that of NASA’s new IBM computer, to calculate his reentry to earth’s atmosphere.

Katherine Johnson had raw potential — seen, recognized, nurtured and blossomed.

Recently, my son selected courses for his junior year of high school. The choices are becoming greater in number, as is their significance.

What do you want to be?

The world is already asking.

I’d like to know how many teenagers are equipped to visualize what they can see themselves doing for the rest of their lives. How many have obvious potential like Katherine Johnson? How many parents and educators are looking for hidden potential?

And, if it been recognized, how many can envision a path to put it into practice? Some are blessed with a lot of soft skills that do not have an obvious home.

As a parent, I have been watching and paying attention. I take note of the activities that deliver my son to happiness and engagement; or conversely, to boredom and frustration. Like most parents, I want my son to live a fulfilled life.

I want him to live a life of experience — through his potential.

Isn’t that what we all yearn for deep down inside?

A life of meaning explored through our unique potential.

As a parent, I’ll keep watching and listening.

I’ll do my best to help my son find a way to turn his sap into syrup.