I have had a crazy few weeks.
At this point, I have (successfully?) finished my first week of my first year of teaching. I have 10 first graders who are full of life and love and a hint of mischief. They are just as determined to test me as I am to understand them. And though there are times throughout the day when I don’t believe this, I’m going to win. Because I’m the adult and because that’s what they pay me to do.
I now wake up earlier than I have in the past 5 years and am out the front door by 7 am. If I leave later than that, I’m afraid I’ll be late and the thought of walking into work late makes my stomach do back flips. I was horrified any day I got into Huntington at 10:02 and there wouldn’t be any people in that building for the next 5 hours. So I leave early, I get to school early, I stay at work late and I stay awake at night too late. I have not been this consistently tired in quite a long time, but it’s somehow a very, very good feeling.
On Saturday, I went to an all-day leadership conference at church. I had been asked to speak during one of the afternoon sessions and I agreed. I prefaced my talk with the fact that I am a much better writer than speaker, so if anyone wanted to see what I had actually intended to say, I’d email them. I’m not going to make you read what I wrote in its entirety (but would gladly email it to you if you ask), though some things are worth mentioning, especially since they’re themes that pop up a lot in the things I share on here. So, here goes.
Though I won’t readily admit this on my own, I’m actually good at quite a few things. I sing loudly (and sometimes in-tune) at my house, I’ve painted things that strangers have actually bought, and I can bake almost anything you ask of me. More importantly though, I believe that I am good at loving people. I constantly make claims about my dislike of people, but they’re not true. People fascinate me and when I meet new people, I instantly want to know everything about them, from where they grew up to where they see themselves in 5 years. Adults, as you know, don’t readily give this information out. Kids do. In fact, after the first 15 minutes I spend with a kid, I will know how many siblings he has, what he wants to be when he grows up, how old his parents are and what he ate for breakfast. Kids gush information, not just because they haven’t fine-tuned their filters, but because they’re desperate to get what we all want: unconditional love. They aren’t afraid of the rejection like the rest of us, because they haven’t experienced it. For that, I am thankful.
There are people who are amazing at building relationships with the kids they work with and I strive to be more like them. The students in their small groups or classes know how much they are loved, and I want that for my kids. I use that phrase a lot – “my kids.” I’m 26 years old, single and biological-child free but it is my honest belief that the children in my Sunday School class and classroom at school are my kids. I am accountable not only for them, but to them. I know that when I come into my classroom unprepared or short-tempered, my kids can tell. They can see it written in my face and hear it in my voice and I watch my kids shut down. The worst possible thing I can do is influence a child in a direction away from Jesus, and every time I have these moments, these moments when my heart is hard towards these tiny creatures that Jesus loves so much, that’s what it feels like I’m doing. I am more than a babysitter, I am called to be an example for these kids that I see each week. I am called to love them as much as I possibly can, because God loves them more. If I want my kids to understand that God loves them, I need to help show them what love looks like.
I wonder about my purpose. I’ve agonized over it even though I already know what it is, because until very recently, I thought there had to be more to it than such a simple statement. I’ve had a theory for years that when you’re little, you (mostly) understand that your parents love you. You believe that they spend time with you, they provide for you and they love you because it is a requirement. When we’re young (and sometimes even when we’re older), we take the love our parents choose to give us for granted. When someone outside of the parental role chooses to do the exact same things with us, we begin to understand that we are special and that we matter, because we do. My mission in life is to invest my time, energy and love into showing everyone that I come in contact with, especially children, how amazing and special they are.