So when she pulled into the parking lot, she felt very unsure of herself, unsure of where her dream, where God, was taking her. The fence with barbed wire at the top was so different from the pastoral fences of her home. This fence surrounding the school in the city was meant for keeping people out, not keeping a herd in the field. She sat in her car, so uncertain, considering going back home.
Determined not to be rude, she summoned the strength to go inside for the interview. The door was just across the parking lot. Surely, she could do this. But as she reached the door, she found it locked, stuck firm. A naive country girl, she had never seen magnetic door locks. She had never "buzzed" to get into any door before. Again, she questioned the wisdom of interviewing at such a school in the midst of this city landscape. She pressed on, pushing the button near the door. Surely, she could get through this interview.
With no intention of anything more than practicing her interview skills, she walked into the old building to find the office. The principal, a kind faced woman, met her in the office. Such a contrast from the sober faces at the other schools, the girl was taken off guard. Rather than grilling her with the typical questions, the principal took her into the school and shared it's history and stories of the children who found their way there each morning.
So, she accepted the offer to teach. She took very little pay to drive into the unsafe places of the city and teach these children who stole her heart before she even met them. She spent the summer cleaning the dirty room and adding as many comforts as she could afford. She was preparing for those faces she couldn't wait to meet. Anticipation mixed with anxiety, the children lined up in their uniforms in the front parking lot. She smiled.
She loved them. She taught them. She spent her hours thinking of them, doing for them, pouring herself into that little class of sweet little hearts. When the year ended and they advanced to the next grade, she went with them. They grew to become a family of learners together. She cried great tears as they left at the end of that second year. She loved them so.
A new chapter opened in her life. A story of her own family and the birth of a daughter brought her home. Her love for those children sent them birthday cards and kept them always in her prayers. She hoped they knew how very much she cared... How much she still cares.
Those children are in their early twenties now, the teacher-girl is me. And my heart is still full of love for those sweet little hearts.
I still hear from most of them. They write to me. Once, it was in letters. Now, they message me on facebook. They can't know how much that means to me, how proud I am of them.
What a privilege they have given me! I am seeing them as they open strange new doors of their own, the doors of adulthood. Oh, how I wish I could meet them back in our little classroom and share with them a few bits of knowledge and advice, hope and love.
If I could, I would tell them these things. Many, the same lessons I tried so hard to teach them in years past...
- Make good choices. As you open these new doors in your life, you have a great opportunity to make a great life. Choose the right doors. Spend your time on things that will make life better for you, your family, and the community. Live life well. Minimize regrets by choosing wisely.
- Listen to wisdom. No need to navigate this crazy world alone. There are good people who have been there and done that. Find them. Seek them out. Listen to them.
- Be kind to others. You are grown up now. It's time I tell you why this rule is so important. You see, this world is so very full of sin. Sin is more than just something that is "naughty." You see, sin is something that causes harm. All of us have been touched by sin. All of us have been hurt. Some of us have been called hurtful names. Some of us have not been given the love we should have. Some of us have lost those most precious to us and have grief. Some of us have been hurt in unspeakable ways. We are all wounded, even if you can't see it. So, be kind. Be gentle.
- Be brave, courageous!Try new things, even the scary things! If it doesn't work out, get back up and try something else. Don't be afraid to try new things.
- Always do you very best work. Remember this rule? It was a favorite of mine. Don't be afraid to work hard. It won't hurt you. And to be honest, it feels good to do a job well. Doesn't it?!
- There is a good God who loves you. So seek him out. I know there are folks who don't believe this. I also know there are folks who teach all sorts of things about him that are questionable (at best). So, go to the source. Talk to Him. Read His words. Find out for yourself. Do the research. You are smart enough to figure these things out on your own, so do it. Your life will be richer for having taken on this challenge.
Come visit me, you hear!