(We got to see these wonderful friends all the way from Tennessee twice last week... lucky us! That cutie is our goddaughter Robin. Isn't she the cutest?)
***Some weeks, as a teacher, I go into Friday night completely spent. Don't get me wrong, I love my job, but it can challenging, and I can take things too personally. When you put so much of your heart into something, it seems that the highs are really high, but also that the lows are really low, when the work you put your heart into is not well received, is criticized, or is taken for granted. Such is life and such was last week. I have learned that during those low moments, I need to collect inspiration from somewhere, find some source that helps me remember why I choose to be a teacher that doesn't settle for easy or comfortable. I have a collection of letters and notes from students that remind me why I put the effort into the work that I do. However, rarely do I receive a note from an adult about work, so when I do it makes it all the more special. About a year ago, one of my dear friends, Laurel (pictured above), sent me a sermon she wrote for seminary that I made a cameo in. At the time I read it, it brought tears to my eyes, and I reread it this weekend, to remind myself not to lose heart:
For a few dozen 15 year olds in Chula Vista, California, the fluorescent lights overhead in their sophomore humanities classroom look the same as countless other places where they've sat to listen and learn. So you'd forgive them for assuming that Ms. Gonzales' class is just another class to get through. Some of them have admitted out loud that they felt that way when they started the year. It's logically not a place where they'd expect to receive life-giving bread.
But then, Ms. Brooke Gonzales shows up, day after day, and asks them to open their eyes and hearts to those in the world suffering. This high school history teacher discovered in the former Yugoslavia that peacemaking happens in classrooms as much as in legislative offices, and she decided to use her master's degree in peace and justice to help form young peacemakers, citizens who understand that they can-- and already do -- affect the world with their decisions. I'll let some of the things her students said about her last year speak for themselves: Andreana said, "you make me feel like I can actually do things to make a difference." Efrain said, "we learned how to be a better person inside and with the world. The biggest lesson you taught us was caring, always caring, about the people in need, looking for ways to help those people in need. Thank you for letting me notice that I don't need to care what people think about my accent, and thank you for teaching me the best lesson, caring. Adrian said, "you made me an activist. You have motivated me... to have courage and be kind."
...I'd say for dozens of high schoolers in Chula Vista, the presence of God's self-giving and nourishing love shows up, unexpectedly, in the face and passion and faith and work of Ms. Gonzales.
While I think I am completely unworthy of being spoken of in this way (and of all places in a sermon), it does give me hope. Thank you, Laurel, for your kind words. Here's to a new week.