So, the school year has ended, my husband is (like thousands of other teachers) celebrating by sleeping in, and 49 innocent people in Orlando are dead.
These events are connected for me because they focus my attention inward: I am no longer a teacher. And so I struggle with a sense of powerlessness in the face of humanity’s constant lean toward evil.
Teachers, oh teachers, we need and love you because you have a window of time during which you can influence kids while they still are open to influence. Yes, yes, teachers teach math, science, art, PE, reading…but more importantly, teachers show students how to be kind, accepting, and patient with each other, by modeling kindness, acceptance, and patience, and by demanding these behaviors in their classrooms.
Only parenting is a higher call.
Well, now I’m imagining 49 coffins, 50 because of course the shooter, we can’t forget him, he was real too, a person. And I scold myself, “You gave up working with kids to write? What is that going to accomplish? How is that meaningful?”
So, here is my determination and call-to-action both: Writers! Let’s make our work mean something. Yes, we can write fiction about elves who masquerade as Navy SEALS, or intelligent mice who figure out a way to satisfy their wanderlust by sneaking aboard NASA flights, or a teenage girl who befriends neighborhood crows…but let’s also populate our stories with characters who struggle to accept people who are different than they are, with people who are kind to themselves and learn to forgive others, with moms and dads and boys and girls and kids and adults who show their patience with others by using words to process and resolve conflicts.
If you’re not a writer, but maybe you’re an accountant, or a doctor, or a grocery store checker or a student or a custodian or barista: our lives can mean something. It’s all in our decisions about how we treat people, who we smile at and how often, how we talk to the strangers we meet, what expressions of hate we tolerate in ourselves and others. If you’re a follower of Jesus, like me, it’s not even a choice; it’s a command: Love the way I have loved.
We can use our stories and books and jobs and lives to show people we love them as we struggle to be our very best selves. We can model a different way to live. If we do that, I guess we can be a little bit like teachers.
I will settle for that.