Last Tuesday in one of our weekly email chains, I told Mary that I was having a hard time writing. That I’d been trying, knowing what it was that I wanted to say, but had been unable to form a decent post. Being the plan-oriented problem solver that she is, she suggested that my inspiration come not from 1940s-Hemmingway but from a more readily-available and less-alcoholic place. She also said that I could just put all of the failed attempts into one entry and become part of the post-modern movement. If the rest of this post doesn’t go the way I intend for it to go, that’s what you’ll be getting. For all of our sakes, here’s hoping.
I can count on a number of things happening in my classroom each day. There will be at least two temper tantrums, usually from the same two children and typically before 11 am. Someone will spill all of the crayons out of her crayon box. Someone else will try to help her clean them, only to be accused of stealing the crayons on the floor. There will be tattling, especially over things that don’t actually matter, like who goes next in line. And I can plan on lapses in productivity, either from the spontaneous sing-a-longs that start during seatwork or the more “creative” uses of time that my students come up with. For example, a few weeks ago I watched one of my students as she flailed around, eventually falling off of her chair. When I asked what she was doing, she informed me that she just wanted to see if she could get out of her chair if it was on fire. At least once a week, I’m called “mommy” and there are days when all I can do is stand in the middle of the chaos, hands on my hips, trying to figure out if this is, in fact, the dumbest decision I’ve made in my life. And just when I’ve resolved that I’m done, something amazing happens: I remember that I love my kids.
Genuinely loving people does not come easy for me. I might give off the appearance that I’m good at loving people, but the truth is that I have to work at it. Constantly. Especially when I really just don’t want to. I’ve noticed lately that I have more anger and selfishness in me than I should. It creeps in and buries itself deep into the areas of my heart that I try to ignore most. Then it sits, absorbing all of my negative thoughts and recording each perceived injustice, waiting for the perfect moment when it can spring forth and capture my attention, thoughts, and actions. Once the coup is successfully staged, I do little other than wallow, convinced I am captive to these thoughts and helpless to change them. And though I realize each time that I’m wrong, it usually doesn’t happen until I’ve spent 20 minutes crying in the shower.
Yes. I do realize how melodramatic that sounds. I debated changing it, but decided against it. If that’s how it feels in my head, that’s how it should be written.
I think the important thing to understand here is that if that’s what my heart looks like, I obviously need to change something. What I’ve realized is that the only way I know how to get past the icky feeling I get in my heart when I think about some people is to do something nice for them. It seems so ridiculously simple and is completely counter-intuitive, but it’s the only thing that works for me. If I want for my life to be marked by kindness, I have to be kind intentionally. Even when I would rather being doing something for myself and especially when I’m being stubborn and don’t want to.
This might be a bit ramble-y, but the bottom line for me is that if out of the abundance of the heart the mouth really does speak, I really need to control what’s put in to begin with. Maybe the actions of being kind and generous will become second-nature, instead of just the intentions.