Things have been pretty quiet here on the blog, because apparently the CEO took some time off.
I’d like to say that she went to a tropical beach, where she sat in the sand while someone brought her coconut-laced drinks with umbrellas in them as she was reading her book in the sun and bronzing up her skin, in preparation for Small Town’s dreary winter, but the honest truth is less glamorous.
It’s been a week.
That’s the honest truth. In respect for the week that it’s been, it just didn’t feel right to sit down at the computer to pound the potatoes out of the keyboard and write some goofy paragraphs filled with nonsense.
I teach at a little private school. We’re a tiny school, with one classroom per grade. Our teaching staff and budget are so small, we don’t even have teachers’ aides. Instead, we do things the old fashioned way — all of us teachers take turns doing recess duty and cafeteria duty. We make our own photocopies in the office, we laminate our own stuff, and we find out who’s about to make the run, two blocks away, to the little coffee shack that sits in the parking lot of a grocery store, because she’ll always bring back a tray of hot drinks in the winter months. We know the names of every other teacher’s own sons and daughters. We know who likes cucumbers and who doesn’t in the school lunch salads. We know who is gluten-intolerant and who left a half-full cup of coffee on the counter in the office, because we know what coffee mugs everyone uses.
In other words, we’re kind of a family.
And on Thursday morning, one of our family members suffered a massive heart attack before work… at 6:30 in the morning… and passed away. To say that our little school was shocked is a total understatement. There aren’t enough adjectives to describe how shocked we were. This man had been robust and healthy the day before; I had, in fact, eaten lunch with him in the teachers’ lounge the day before. We were the only two in there, and we’d just plopped down at the table with our food and talked about all kinds of things… the soccer drills I was doing in PE… his grandchildren… and the fact that one of my kindergarten kiddos has emerged as a budding athlete this month, when I never realized the athletic potential she’s had buried inside of her, because she talks so much and likes to twirl around in her skirts so that they flair out and look all princess-like.
When lunch was over, we said good-bye. I told him to have a good afternoon. He told me to have fun in the gym with my 2nd graders, who were coming in for PE next.
It was the last time I would ever speak to him. We said good-bye… we did… but we didn’t say it, expecting it to be THE FINAL ONE. This man taught in our upper school (5th through 8th grades), teaching social studies and PE. I handle the lower school (pre-kindergarten through 4th grade) PE. I’ve shared my gym and PE supply closet with this man for TWENTY ENTIRE YEARS NOW.
For twenty years, I’ve picked up the jackets he leaves behind on the bleachers. For twenty years, I have picked up his keys and his lesson planner and his coaching notes and his laptop, which he’s left on the bleachers, because he was never as oriented to detail as I am. He was forever just walking off, and leaving stuff behind.
On Thursday, I couldn’t even imagine teaching PE without the little pieces of his life that he always managed to leave behind sitting on the bleachers in our gym. Our school’s flag has flown at half-mast. Our teachers are quiet. Our children are full of tears. Our girls’ basketball team (which he coached) is full of questions and sorrow and enormous grief, as he finished up practice with them on Wednesday night, and told them that they were all ready for Thursday afternoon’s game.
The game that he wouldn’t be attending with them after all.
The game which would ultimately be cancelled, because our children were in no way emotionally capable of playing basketball that night.
This teacher has left behind his wife and three sons, along with three grandchildren. He was the teacher who always, always, ALWAYS saw the good in every child. When I saw a kiddo bouncing around the gym and not following directions… when I had asked that child to sit down and listen to the new game directions three times… my frustration would settle in and I’d dock some game minutes, so that he could sit on the bench for a bit. This PE teacher would have seen the underlying problem… and would have asked me, “Did you know his dog was hit by a car in front of him two days ago?”
No, I didn’t.
This teacher was the type that kids just TALKED TO. They poured out their life stories to him, and he LISTENED. And he always knew what was driving the behavior behind every child in our school. Not just SOME children… but ALL the children. He was a dedicated master at understanding kids.
My goal is to be more like that. Yes… kids pour out their life stories to me. But do I listen like he did? Not always. Do I understand the driving force behind every kid’s actions? Hardly ever. Am I too quick to take game minutes off in PE… to let a disruptive kid sit out, rather than taking the time to ask him what his heart is feeling? EVERY. DAY.
My eyes have been opened to the changes I want to make with my PE kiddos.
And then… boom!
Paris got hit with terrorist attacks this weekend, leaving broken families sobbing out their grief. On Saturday, I had a cough that rivaled the whooping cough. I coughed so hard, I couldn’t catch my breath at times. On Sunday, Thing 2 went down with an ear infection and a fever of 102.8. The boy stayed home from school today with the stomach flu. Our house is dirty enough to be labeled as a crack house today. We have more dirty clothes now than clean clothes. Thing 2 took an entire box of baby wipes and squeezed the liquid out of each one of them (EACH!! ONE!!) onto the train table in his bedroom. If you don’t think an entire box of baby wipes holds a lot of liquid, then think again. Stock tanks on ranches don’t hold as much for horses to drink from. And if that wasn’t enough, Hubs left a spray bottle of apple juice sitting on our kitchen counter, which he’d been using to spray ribs down on the barbecue with yesterday. Thing 2 got his hands on it, and squirted apple juice all over our kitchen floor. ALL. THE HECK. OVER. We have sopped up that mess and steam mopped, and we are STILL sticking to the hardwood floor in the kitchen. And the Denver Broncos? Well. We’re not speaking about Sunday’s game at our house, because the pain is just too fresh yet for Hubs to handle.
It’s been a hard week.
But this is what I know.
God is still sitting on His throne, and nothing that happened this past week surprised Him. He never once gasped and declared, “Well! I certainly didn’t see THAT ONE coming!” And He’s trustworthy enough to be leaned upon.
So there. I’m sure that the usual goofy nonsense that you’ve come to expect here at Jedi Mama, Incorporated will resume in full force soon. But for today, I just implore you to pray for those in need. Pray for Paris. Pray for hurting families. Pray for your neighbor, even when you have no idea if he or she even needs prayer.
Y’all have a happy Monday night. May your families be well and healthy and held close to your hearts, and may all your baby wipes stay in their original packaging, sopping wet inside the waterproof case, exactly like Jesus intended for them to be.