Today, one of my former students posted on Facebook, “Four years ago today.”
I commented, “I remember.”
How could I forget? A sensitive, creative, vibrant young man whose poetry touched my soul and who made life hard for me with his antics in the classroom and who covered up his cutting with long sleeves tried to take his own life.
It didn’t work.
He commented on Facebook, in response to my comment, “Thank you for all you did for me during that time, Mrs. Wilson.”
What had I done? I couldn’t remember doing anything profound. I had listened to him when he wanted to talk, mostly wishing that I had answers for his questions. I had written him a note with a Bible verse in it. I told him I was praying for him, and I prayed really, really hard. It felt like nothing. But to him, it was something. It was “all you did.”
I came home in tears two weeks ago because I learned that I was going to have to start doing curriculum maps for my new school. I just finished curriculum maps for my old school. They took three years to do. I whined to my husband, “It feels like I’m starting all over again, like the work I’ve done over the past few years has been erased.” He replied, wisely, “It hasn’t been erased. Your work is ministering to students and showing them God’s love. That work can never be erased.”
Teaching is a long harvest. We sow, we water, and we weed, weed, weed. Most of the time, we don’t get to participate in the wonderful harvest that comes when these boys and girls become strong, inspiring, influential men and women of God. We have to be content knowing that the harvest will eventually come, and we have to live in the present while hoping for a future that we may never see.
But occasionally, we are granted glimpses of that future. Sometimes it’s in a student’s mature acceptance of a harsh reality. Sometimes it’s seeing a preternatural patience in how a student reacts to a frustrating situation. Sometimes, it’s a status update from an alumnus who has made it through the valley of shadows and has found peace and healing on the other side.
Regardless, it’s more motivation to keep doing what I’m doing, as feeble and insignificant as it may feel at times: listening, encouraging, and praying, praying, praying. It doesn’t matter if someone else gets to reap the harvest. The point is to be faithful to calling I have right now, today. And that calling isn’t primarily curriculum mapping or lesson planning or grading or organizing field trips or responding to emails.
It’s loving God’s children: my students.