Ian James Christiansen

OUR RELATIONSHIPS

A relationship is defined as the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected. No matter what age, sex, or ethnic group to which one belongs, an individual needs social contacts, even if they are sometimes stressful, to make life enjoyable and fulfilling. Relationships are an essential source of learning and influence an individual to remain curious and open to new experiences. In The Freedom Writers Diary, the Freedom Writers all develop relationships in the classroom setting. However, before this group of diverse people can come together, they have to let go of all the assumptions that they have about one another. As teacher and Shamanic healer Don Miguel Ruiz explains in The Four Agreements, a person should not make assumptions but instead engage in open communication. Both The Freedom Writers Diary and The Four Agreements emphasize the importance of relationships since they influence the direction of one’s life.

Relationships help society to grow because they bring together different types of people through compromise, teamwork, and effort. The Freedom Writers Diary demonstrates the importance of relationships through chronicling the developing relationships amongst a diverse group of students. For instance, in Diary 33 of The Freedom Writers, the student explains how her father went to jail when she was eight years old, and this event made her loyal to her gang. The woman writes, “You can’t go against your own people, your own blood” (65). However, as Mrs. Gruwell brings the class closer together, the woman’s character changes, and she realizes that the importance of being loyal not just to the people one was raised with, but of being loyal to the people who actually care. In the case of Diary 33, the writer’s relationship with her gang forced her to lie in court, but the new relationships that are developed in Mrs. Gruwell’s class shift the woman’s direction in life.

At Woodrow Wilson High School, when Mrs. Gruwell begins teaching, the students segregate themselves according to race, religion, ethnicity etc. When a student at Woodrow Wilson High School steps into a classroom surrounded by people of other races and religions, he does not dare associate himself with people who were not his “people.” In Diary Three, a boy explains that “schools are just like the city and the city is just like prison” and that all of them “are divided into separate sections, depending on race.” He observes, “On the streets, you kick it in different ‘hoods, depending on your race or where you’re from. And at school, we separate ourselves from people who are different from us” (10). The students are making assumptions about each other based on race.

Don Miguel Ruiz explains in The Four Agreements that “we make assumptions about what others are doing or thinking—we take it personally—then blame them and react by sending emotional poison with our words” (64). This is what the students in Mrs. Gruwell’s class are doing. To overcome this behavior, Mrs. Gruwell has the class participate in activities to demonstrate that although the students are from different backgrounds, they have more in common than they think. For instance, Mrs. Gruwell has the class play “The Peanut Game” in which the students write a description of the peanut, both inside and out. The similarities of their descriptive paragraphs shows the class that although they might come from different backgrounds, they still view certain things in the same way. Through this exercise, Mrs. Gruwell has the students begin to come together to form relationships, which, in some cases, influence the paths the students’ lives follow.

The Freedom Writers Diary demonstrates that relationships are the foundation of society and that they impact the directions of people’s lives. In addition, The Four Agreements emphasizes the idea that, in order to have a strong relationship with a person, one must denounce all assumptions. As the authors show us, relationships hold importance because not only do they bring us pleasure but they also help shape our lives.

Works Cited

The Freedom Writers with Erin Gruwell. The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them. New York: Doubleday, 1999. Print.

Ruiz, Miguel. The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom. San Rafael, CA: Amber-Allen Pub., 1997. Print.

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