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And then I thought . . .

I cried this week for a student - real, instantaneous tears. I cried because this child so obviously hurts and has no idea how to function in the world. I cried because I keep asking this child to multiply integers and find the multiplicative relationship, but then I think: Isn't being able to do math when one is so unloved at home, well, isn't that just a silly expectation?

Yet, this student did math for me this week and with unusual insight and care. Why? Because I asked, "How are you?" I touched a shoulder and said, "It's been hard, hasn't it? Is there food at home? Do you feel safe?"

I cried because this was the only time in so long that I could muster those questions due to the convergence of this child's repeated unruly and disrespectful behavior and my bitter spirit. I cried because I am so tired and I realize one cannot be a counselor, a social worker, and a teacher at the same time - unless you are interested in losing your sanity and your own family.

Then, I sat in silence because we teachers don't know how to tell you it is this bad sometimes and that we are really worried about our future.

And, finally, I thought about how often I cry for myself because it is so hard to teach children in a poor & rural community. I thought about the words I have exchanged with this student, both good & bad but mostly bad. I thought about dying to myself & living for Christ . . . and I thought about how it is always I  . . . I  . . . I.

And, then, for some reason known only to God, I stood up and answered a student's question with a smile on my face, and then repeated it over & over & over. I don't know if this is picking up one's cross, maybe it is too trivial, but it felt like dying to myself . . . I never knew a smile could feel like death. . . And, finally, I prayed, "Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner," and realized there is a joy that makes no sense to the world or even to me.


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