We were on our way to the grocery store when my son, who was very young at the time, yelled, “To! To!” Initial panic calmed when my brain registered that we don’t yell “To! To!” in an emergency, so it must be something else. It turns out he was elated to recognize the word to on the sign Photos to Go, a local business. It was the day he became a reader, so we’ve always felt a special affection for the business.
We popped in from time to time to drop off film, visiting with Chung Kim, the owner. For 15 years, Mr. Kim carefully processed and preserved innumerable faces, places, and memories for his customers.
With the birth of digital photography and its increasing popularity, his business dwindled to nearly nothing. Though we no longer dropped off rolls of film, we’d wave as we walked by. Then one day, the monstrous processing equipment was gone and the doors were closed.
A couple of months later, a shiny new Baskin-Robbins ice cream store took its place. And behind the counter was Mr. Kim! Instead of preserving memories, he has spent the past seven years serving up sweet treats, rain or shine.
I can’t help but admire Mr. Kim and think about what we can learn from his example. As educators, we often reflect on our lessons and practice, refining the good to make it great. Standards and stakes are so high though, that we need to be brutally honest as we evaluate what we do and realize that if something is no longer working, we may need to start from scratch and try something completely different. The result may be just as sweet.