On Fighting in the Family

It’s supper time in our house. As soon as we all come together, it seems the tensions rise. Someone did something to someone else and it just continues to unravel from there. Words fly, accusations are tossed about. Insults become pointed. Sarcasm is certainly the lowest form of wit, Wilde got that right. Everyone thinks their version of the story is the right one, and they are willing to put anyone else on the chopping block so as to maintain face. This is how it sometimes can be when families gather around the table.

And on other nights, I am reminded that civil behaviour is possible. We can show kindness and love. We can be gracious. We can treat one another respectfully. It is possible- there is hope.

Yesterday, I browsed through one of my favorite blogs and was disheartened to find a full-fledged debate about the hot topic of homosexuality and what people believed about such. There were a lot of “I thinks” and verses to sway one side to the other. And on and on it went- one mean-spirited comment after another. I say I was ‘disheartened’ because every time these debates occur, there is in-fighting amongst believers, non-believers and otherwise. And such mean-spiritedness. And hatred. And, ugh…it is all so ugly. It rather reminds me of a family at suppertime fighting about what they believe so strongly to be right- so much so that they would be willing to throw their fellow brother and sister under the bus so as to prove their point.

I am reading a great deal about care these days and one care theorist that I have studied in great depth is Nel Noddings. In her groundbreaking book on caring in schools, she had this to say: “the living other is more important than any theory”. And while I hesitate to include this quote as a blanket-statement, I do think that we often sacrifice the people in our lives for creeds or doctrines we hold as truths. We make adherence to a certain dogma more important than the people we live and work alongside. And while I think there are things we can live and die by- while I believe in truth and holiness and justice and all things good and right, I do not think it is ever worth sacrificing one’s brother or sister- throwing them under the bus to get trampled for the sake of an argument. For the sake of a debate. Debates like these drive wedges deeply between people, Christian or otherwise. As I have watched martyrs for the sake of the Gospel (the Good News of Jesus’ love for us) give their lives for the truths they hold near and dear to their hearts, I cannot help but see in their faces a unity with their brothers and sisters. There is no debating the current topical issues as you stand on the line, your life in the balance at the behest of a terrorist- your fellow brothers and sister in Christ lined up on either side. Clarity and lucidity suddenly comes into full view when the eternal things that really matter are before your eyes.

I love the verses in the Bible that call us to clarity. Verses like Micah 6:8 (NIV):
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly[a] with your God.

Ours is not to do the work of the Spirit of the Living God, acting as our brother or sisters conscience. We have enough work to do in our own lives without trying to take on the job of making decisions for someone else. Getting inside their heart and head so as to figure things out- we don’t know their heart. And we never truly will. The heart is a private place that only the individual and the supernatural are given entry to. We can observe, but we can never truly know. We need to stop playing God. We are not God.

We have just celebrated that glorious of Christian holidays: Good Friday leading way to Easter Sunday. We have risen with Christ- we are no longer counted as among the dead. Why do we continue to live like we are counted among the defeated? It is God who has given us life, we are no longer in chains bound by our own pride and arrogance and superiority. We are free to walk humbly with God. And free to trust that God is doing a work in the hearts of women and men that no eye can see nor ear can hear. His work is often in the secret places- He works that way. With a still small voice.

In the secret.

I love this verse as well, and I believe that for Christians such as me- who have known Christ for a good long time, it is an important one for us to remember first and foremost:

Psalm 51:10 (NIV): “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

This verse calls us as people of God to remember- the work that we so desperately feel MUST be done in others lives, really begins in our own hearts. God works personally. He doesn’t call us to look to the left or to the right- to see what our brothers and sisters are doing wrong (like children fighting at a supper table): He calls us to look inside of our own hearts to see if there is anything there that stands between us and the Father.

Finally, I love these verses about how to act toward our brothers and sisters in Christ- or anyone else, for that matter:
John 13:34-35 (ESV): “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

By our love, people will know that we love Him. What beautiful words to live and grow and breathe by.  May this timeless truth be so in our lives today- that they know us by our love.

Stoke the Fire

For my Mom.

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You are making a difference for that one.
Eight little words. But they hold so very much meaning.

I am sitting down to eat. We have just half an hour before I leave again to drive back home to my little family, but thirty minutes is long enough for a story. As I eat left-over Easter ham and potatoes, she tells me about her friend whose husband has Lewy Body Dementia, a type of dementia that shares characteristics with Alzheimer’s and Dementia. A debilitating condition, he is now in a long-term care facility at the early age of sixty. As I listen, I am reminded again that life is not fair. But when was it ever?

She shares with me the story of her good friend, once part of a successful recording artistry duo that traveled as a team all across the States, a woman whose son had enabled her to share her journey of change (from public to private life) with an audience recently as part of a guest speaker assemblage on a cruise ship. While part of the entourage, the woman told a small audience the story of how she now cares every day for her husband in a long-term facility and deals with the pain of a loss of livelihood and way of life. She bravely shared how God was using her in albeit small ways- while He had once given her a very public platform, she now was meeting people one by one. And devoting most of her time to the needs of her husband.

Humbling mundane work when you are use to crowds of people gazing back at you from the stands. But as life continues on, this is how the story so often unfolds.

As I listened, my storyteller added this last bit to the tale, the punch-line if you will. She said that some had told her friend that somewhere down the line, those changes in her life, which were forcing her and her husband into constraints beyond their wildest imaginations- these details would all come together someday for a greater purpose… so as to influence many people once again in a big way. In other words, she deserved for this pain to pay off- she was after all, someone who had once been used in a very big way. Somewhere along the line, what was going around would come around again- for good.

But is this really the purpose of pain and suffering- is this the end result? That it must be used for some glorious, far-reaching purpose? Must we always have a reward for every suffering we undergo? What do we really deserve, when all is said and done?

My story-teller assured me that she had begged to differ with this mindset, that is, that her friend’s life must needs be counted as purposeful if everything came together somehow and someway in the future. She told me that she had encouraged her friend of this timeless truth: you are making a difference for someone you care about today, and that’s more than enough purpose to give your life meaning.

Sometimes we think that unless it is public and advertised, it must not be worthwhile. We live in an age of social media, and its influence is far-reaching. The more ‘likes’ we have, the better we feel. The more hits on our pages, the more our confidence rises. But in this era of publicly shared living, we might have forgotten the timeless truth: what happens when the lights dim is often the most telling of our truest character. What happens when the music fades is sometimes the best predictor of who we really are.

And beyond this, we can be prone to give much credence to quantity at the expense of quality. The more results, the better we feel. The bigger the audience, the greater the impact. But what if the truest marker of success was the praise we received in private?

My mother’s friend now spends most of her time in a long-term health facility, out of the public eye. While there, she talks to the residents and cares for the needs of whom she is able. She also spends long hours looking after the shell of the man who was formerly her partner in life, a man whose presence was taken from her far too early. But if you were to ask this woman’s son how he feels about his mother and the work of her calling, he would offer the highest of praise. Because he knows that she is daily doing what she can to make a difference, right where she has been placed for now.

She is making a difference for her man whom she still dearly loves and making an impact on all of the others. And for all the people whom she comes into contact with each and every day, her work is perceived as meaningful. It might not be publicly recognized anymore or lauded with accolades. It might never again be given that kind of standing. That doesn’t diminish the importance of the work she has been called to do at this season in her life. She is making a difference, one person at a time. Moment by moment, day by day.

And so can we all. May we never forget, when the lights fade and the spotlight has been removed from our lives: we can still make a difference. One person at a time.

Our work is only ever finished when the candle ceases to burn. May we stoke the fires that lie within.

Brokenness is better than a hallelujah

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God loves a lullaby
In a mother’s tears in the dead of night
Better than a Hallelujah sometimes

She was just a mess, broken pieces, shards of glass. And as she sat on a bridge one fine October day, feet dangling over the water’s edge, all she could think of was how much she hated him. How much he drove her crazy. They would never make it, him and her. They were too different. Too opposite. And he didn’t understand her- what made her tick, what fueled her tank.

God loves the drunkard’s cry
The soldier’s plea not to let him die
Better than a Hallelujah sometimes

Months had passed into years, and she had all but given up hope. Things were just too far gone. There was no hope for this situation- they would never get it right. Some things were not meant to be. And they were one of these things: mismatched, unevenly aligned. Two people going in two different directions.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful, the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

She had talked about it for quite some time to the one person she trusted the most with these kinds of details. And that person had supported her through it all, but had also stipulated that they believed God was in this marriage, even if the Girl didn’t yet see it. That person said they were praying. They could see the best in this impossible situation. The Girl wasn’t so sure. In spite of her limited faith, the hope that the One Praying had, seemed to do for both of them.

The woman holding on for life
The dying man giving up the fight
Are better than a Hallelujah sometimes

Besides, it was not due to wrongs that either she or the Man had done to one another in any moral sense that this Great Divide had been created: it was due more to those little hurts that come by way of more intangible situations. From depriving one another love, from holding back. From the cold that grows inside a heart that is turned off love. And in time, little hurts like these can give way to bigger ones: anger, resentment, fear, insecurity, sadness, isolation, anxiety, panic and loneliness.

The tears of shame for what’s been done
The silence when the words won’t come
Are better than a Hallelujah sometimes

So when she found herself telling him that she wished it was over, wished that she had never even begun, it was almost like the floor had finally given way in a dilapidated old house that had served its purpose one too many years. Everything fell apart.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

And while I still don’t know quite what happened, I can say that one day the Girl woke up and there was a change in her heart. She couldn’t quite put her finger on the exact moment, the time and day. But she knew somehow, someway- something had changed. She was different- and so was he. There had been something miraculous happen to bridge the Gap between them, something had toppled the massive walls that had been erected to separate, fortresses made from the strongest of materials. Something had changed between them. They were no longer enemies, at odds with one another. They were friends.

Better than a church bell ringing
Better than a choir singing out, singing out

The Girl and the Boy tentatively adjusted to their new life, lived in freedom from the former chains. Chains that had once held them captive and enslaved to their own self-serving interests were now broken. They were gone. And the Girl and her Boy lived in peace with one another, free to love each other. Free to love themselves. And free to serve one another in love.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful, the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

And because they had witnessed nothing short of a miracle, it was right to tell the world. That their broken mess of a marriage had been made into something beautiful. Just like a broken hallelujah from the lips of one breathing their last. Just like a melody from one who has lived to see another day. Their lives were a living testament to grace. Their lips could do nothing less than sing of God’s amazing grace.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful, the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

When we share with one another the brutal in our lives, along with the beautiful, we are able to clearly see the truth on which our lives are built. Unashamed and unconcealed. Broken and free. We are unchained melodies.

For we are more than just the pretty details we show one another in social media, more than the cute pictures we post on Facebook, the funny stories we share in our news feeds. We are more than just the casual “I’m fine” that we say so flippantly when asked how we are doing. We are people with real lives, real stories. Real pain. And none of our lives are perfect. None of us has that market cornered yet. We live lives of suffering that can be marked on a continuum that measures the varying degrees. And none can judge the shoes another walks in because we cannot ever know the pain we feel inside. Cannot really know the emptiness of wondering, “Is this all there really is?” This has to be one of the greatest points of despair in a person’s journey: wondering what is the purpose of a pointless life that seems to be heading nowhere. This is grief at its lowest, this is emptiness in its fullest.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful, the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

Can we believe this truth?
Our lives are better than a beautiful melody sung by angels.
Our tears are better than a hallelujah uttered in church on Sunday morning.
Our cries are better than an Amen.
Our rage is better than apathy.
Our anger is better than indifference.
Our acknowledgement of the brokenness of our lives is better than a hallelujah.

Bearing truth to the messy, complicated in our lives is better than a Hallelujah sometimes.

(It’s better than a hallelujah sometimes)

Words to the song “Better Than A Hallelujah” are written by Amy Grant

The Purpose of Prayer

Prayer is something we as Christians take for granted as part and parcel of our life and calling, but it is something really of an enigma for most of us. You see, we are told that we can ask anything in Jesus’ name and it will be given to us. But when we ask, we so often find that there is no response. We sense quiet from God. Maybe even an absence.

Prayer can seem like a wasted moment at best- a farce at worst.

I am in the kitchen watching my Mom make us coffee when she casually mentions that she and a mutual friend (living at a distance from her for every year she has known her) have prayed for each others’ children, as part of a promise to one another made many years earlier. The fact that I have been prayed for by a woman who has not really known me (and who has largely just heard of me through stories told of me by my own mother) is all quite humbling. I have been thought of and mentioned in the presence of God, before His face- by someone who considers my life to be of value enough to pray for me daily. Incredibly touching.

In fact, Mom tells me that this friend has been praying for her five children (and vice versa) since we were all knee-high to a grasshopper. That is a long time to pray, as I am now 40 and no longer a child. I marvel at the commitment this kind of prayer practice takes- to pray for your friend’s children year after year after year, and I think about this a bit before I find myself heading to beat the rush to the shower. As I continue to get ready for the day, I am struck by the fact that I do not pray as vigilantly for my own four children, let alone anyone elses’ (for that matter), as do these two women. They are amazing prayer warriors. In fact, when I consider my personal belief in the power of prayer, I find myself coming up short. I have to ask myself: do I believe that prayer works? And that it can impact lives?
Do I really think prayer changes things?

As I am thinking, I begin to reflect on some recent changes in my life and how these changes have made a major impact on the relationships I hold the closest. In fact, I think of marriage and my relationship to Husband and how our whole married life has been a struggle to find common ground. I consider the fact that marriage has never come easy to either one of us and that we have too many times wondered if marriage was really the right decision for us as a couple. I think about the times we both hit rock bottom, wondering if we would ever find ourselves rising to the surface again. I think of the despair.

And while I am thinking, I consider my own life- the dreams and hopes and aspirations. I think about the ‘would have beens’, the ‘could have beens’- the seemingly missed opportunities. The regrets.

I think about the struggle I have had in finding and nurturing my passion.
I think about how hard parenting has been.
I think about relationships and how difficult they sometimes can be.
I think about my struggle with depression and loneliness- my insecurities and anxiety.

And I think, as I contemplate my life in a nutshell- all while standing there in the shower- I think about two women praying for me. Daily. Consistently. Without fail.

Has the hope I have sensed of late been a long-time answer to an unmet prayer humbly offered by two faithful praying women?
I cannot help but surmise that it wasn’t answers they sought, trophies they pursued: it was hope they were after. Believing that their faith would be honored, knowing that the regularity in which they petitioned their Savior would not return to them void. And all because two praying women believed.

Faith is believing.
Not just in what we hope for- but in what our wildest hopes could never even imagine.
Faith is knowing.
Not just what we think might be true- but what we can hardly even envisage might be possible.
Faith is trusting.
Not just in what seems like a sure bet- but in what feels unattainable.
Faith is expectant.
Already trusting that what is about to unfold is carefully being held in God’s faithful, loving Hands. It has already happened in God’s eyes. We just need to trust.

When relationships are built on believing conviction like this, it no longer matters what we are asking from the One involved in this dynamic- what matters is Who we are asking. The crux of prayer is: Who we are praying to. Who is listening? And Who can meet the need? I really think the point of prayer is not to see a wish-list/bucket list of wants and desires granted, as if God were some Fairy God-father, but rather it is there to grow us in relationship. Closer to Him. Closer to each other.

Prayer is our connection to God. And it strengthens our connections to one another.

It’s the point of prayer- to draw us close.

As I stand there in the shower, on yet another Good Friday morning (two more days until Easter and the hope and promise it offers), I start to see that there is evidence that Someone is changing me, drawing me ever closer to His Heart. Evidence that Someone loves me and wants me to love Him back. And evidence that Someone desires to know me- my needs and wants and fears and joys. Someone is reaching out to me- I just have to have faith to know He’s there. I just have to believe even as I reach out myself, through prayer.

And when I do, I sense that knowing- that understanding. God is there. He’s real. And prayer really works- maybe not for the self-serving intents of my own needs and wants, but certainly for the Higher Purpose of drawing me close to the One who’s got the whole world in His Hands.
Prayer works- if for nothing else than to change me from the inside out, and that is more than enough reason to choose to really pray, starting today.

Finding Purpose

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“Listen to me. You HAVE to decide what you believe to be the most important work in the world and then you have to DO THAT WORK. Because THIS is what happens. THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS. God shows up.”- Glennon Doyle- Melton

I am still recovering from yesterday’s drama. As a day among many other similar days, it still wasn’t the best example of my most shining moment as a parent. I might have been a bit too impatient- MIGHT have lost my cool and run out of a room. I might have had a mini adult tantrum.

In short, I might have failed a bit as a parent.

And so, when today arrived new and shining, I did what I always do. As daybreak dawned bright and new, I woke to the promise of another try. Another chance. A fresh beginning. I got up and faced the challenge.

I showed up.

This is important to remember: even after apologies have been offered and forgiveness is finally on the table, sometimes things don’t always work out perfectly- that is something I am learning.

But here’s what else I know to be true.

When we begin again and life still isn’t perfectly worked out- all the kinks haven’t been smoothed and all the creases haven’t been folded- sometimes a little bit of heaven shines through anyway and we are reminded of our purpose. Reminded why we are here and why we are still doing what we’re doing.

********************

I walk into the school with the buses already lining up beside me, and I met immediately with a little girl whom I know and care for greatly. She and I- we just connect. I sense immediately that this little girl, like me, has started the day off with a bit of apprehension- maybe even a bit of fear: I can just feel it. And it doesn’t take very long for both of us to get to the heart of the matter, she and I. Talking about our STUFF, the things that weigh us down. She’s only eight, but she is oh, so wise. And I feel tears forming and love rising inside of me, even as I listen to her. I remind myself yet again: we are all in this together.

*********************

I walk into the office, and I find him sharing his little heart with anyone that will listen. And I feel compelled to leave my comfortable cocoon- the little space I am occupying this moment…leave it, so as to tell him that I have been there too- that I have stuff that holds me down, binds me up inside. I am not perfect either, Little Man. And as I tell him something that makes him laugh, I feel inside of me a weight lifting. It’s like my soul was a leaden balloon and he has just lifted a release to let it fly anyway. That laughter we share is freeing. I am being lifted once again by an eight-year old.

********************

I stand in the hallway readying children for the buses. A little boy runs into my room and hands me a small green zombie head. “Mrs. Gard, I just want to give this to you,” he says exuberantly. I take the small offering, turning it over in my hand. “Why me?” I ask inquisitively.

“Because,” he says ( a shining light in his eyes), “You always let me come into your room.

***********************

I line up my own little class for the buses, and one of my dear little four turns his head in my direction. Before he makes the turn in the hallway to move out of my sight, he looks back at me and says, “Mrs. Gard, I love you!”

So this was my day…today.

************************

We must all find our purpose in this life and that purpose must compel us to move forward, doing what we can and what we are able so as to live out our calling.

Someone recently told me that they didn’t know what their purpose was. This is hard, challenging work- figuring out our purpose. It is stretching, complicated stuff. And it always leaves us changed, different than we were before.

I think part of my purpose is to care about people. It is why I am here. And I find that the more I care, the more I am able to care. The more able I am to care, the better I get at it. The better I get at it, the more I feel challenged by it. The more challenged I am by this whole endeavor, the more soul-searching I must do to re-confirm that where I am RIGHT NOW is where I need to be.

I am where God has placed me to be in the larger scheme of life.

But I know all too well: caring for people is frustrating work. It is hard. And it often leaves us feeling a bit stripped of resources. A bit broken and vulnerable. But when we do care, in honest, authentic, open ways, we allow for opportunity so that others can then see us for who we really are, giving them hope in the process.

Caring is like that: it is attentive, connective and relational.

And while there are times when those relationships we nurture leave us raw and open, leave us feeling exposed. There are other times besides when we see growth. For in allowing fragility to act as a bridge for caring, we are then led down different paths and toward new horizons. To new opportunities of care. Led to other people who need our care, even but for a little while before we return our hearts again toward home.

Caring heals us,
From the inside out.

Our calling might be as different as our days are varied. But one thing is sure: we are called to care. And when we care for others, doing what we can in the little ways we are given, God gives us the strength to do the greater work He has for us. One little act of love at a time.

Failed Parenting

I really don’t know how to say the words tonight. I sense within me, utter failure. It feels that I just cannot ever seem to get it right.

But then again…

We are driving home from an appointment. Husband is away for the night, so I have three in tow, with one at home wondering where we are. As we drive, I field criticism from The Children, for various things that have randomly gone wrong but are quite obviously my fault:

The fact that the appointment ran overtime and now we can no longer join Husband in Summerside for supper and shopping. Parenting fail (because I control the dentist’s schedule and I quite obviously planned it this way).

The fact that I am stopping to get ice cream for everyone’s dessert tonight instead of driving everyone straight home. Parenting fail (because I will have now delayed everyone at least ten minutes from partaking of their favorite activity- sitting on the couch scrolling through ipods/playing X-box).

The fact that I will be making a supper complete with meat, starch and veggies as a source of nourishment. Parenting fail (because if I was a good mom, I’d be serving up Chips ‘N Dip, Pepsi and Hot Dogs, with a side of Skittles every night).

The fact that I have suggested no popcorn should be popped twenty minutes before supper, as I hastily pull together said meal. Parenting fail (because junk food should really come with an IV pole for more discreet fueling up. In the perfect world, it would).

I know, I know. Just let it all go, right?
But I still feel it: parenting failure. Where did I go wrong?

So later, when the words come flying out of me in the early evening hours- words connected to something that irritates me, a thing so incredibly minor and inconsequential, but which bears the weight of a thousand bricks as the frustration comes hurtling out of my mouth. I feel the shame. I cannot re-stack those bricks no matter how hard I try. I said them and now I live with them.

I feel the absolute shame of them. And I am sorry.

It really doesn’t matter how many things our children do or say to us, we can react strongly once to them and we feel we have failed them as parents. Where does this guilt come from? Why can we not have our say and get on with it? Why do the feelings have to linger?

I think it is because we know the expectations of us. What is required. Even tonight, I read about a mother elephant who pulls her baby from a well. The caption reads that a mother’s love is the strongest love known on earth. She works for eleven hours to get her beloved free. On days like this, I am looking at that crazy elephant and hiss-whispering to her, “Leave it in there and make like a bandit… run, Forrest- RUN.” And yet, I know that in spite of everything:

In spite of the frustration
The chaos
The screams and hollers and noise
In spite of The Fighting
The Arguing
The Mean-Spiritedness and Picking

In spite of the fact that I am Sometimes Led to Believe that I Am not Doing This Parenting Thing RIGHT (mainly by the significant four experts that have actually never done this job themselves but have lots to say about the subject)

In spite of the fact that my children drive me crazy (and I them):
They are my children. And I love them. I always will. And that is the one thing I am doing right, even in the midst of all the ‘wrong’. This I know: I will wake up again tomorrow and enter into the same minefields and walk the line anyway, all for love.

I do not wish to excuse bad behavior. Mine or any one elses’. I did apologize for my outburst, and that is the only one over which I have any control. As for the others, we are all a work in progress. Especially Mama.
Thank goodness tomorrow’s a new, fresh beginning.

The Life and Calling of a Teacher

It’s snowing.

He and I walk a stretch of icy road, heading down to the bridge below the farm. Blizzard warnings have cancelled school across the Island, so this is our P.E. class for the day. Cabin fever never hurt to act as motivator for a teenager to spend time with their mother.
I ask him the question, and he’s thoughtful in his response.
What is the most important way your teachers can show you they care? Because I want this to be practical- I want this to be real. I really want to hear his answer, if this is going to guide my lived experience.
He responds- the words, not shocking in their revelation: I want them to be understanding- and nice. An answer quick and to the point. He doesn’t mention initially his fine teachers’ collective breadth of knowledge, their expertise. The lessons they’ve taught or the curriculum they’ve unpacked. His answer doesn’t reference the lectures, the assignments and projects.
But he does talk about the relationship. Their ability to care. Words that confirm what I am beginning to understand about caring, compassion and kindness- about transparency and thoughtfulness. Words that confirm to me as a teacher the heart of the matter about teachers and the relationship they have to their students. That is, what really matters to our students is who we are. Not what we do.

It was fall of my Grade 12 year, the year I remember as ‘The Move.’ My father having been relocated in his job as a pastor packed up our meager family possessions and moved his wife and four children minus one over the course of a weekend. It sometimes takes a weekend to unravel a family. And at other times, it just takes a moment.

I alone remained behind, determined that I wouldn’t be leaving all I had known and loved. Sixteen is a brazen age. It’s old enough to know that one couldn’t leave behind their childhood memories. Their home, their life. And it’s old enough to stay behind. But it’s not quite old to know exactly how to pull it all off. My parents in their wisdom allowed me the choice to remain behind so long as I chose to live with a family friend. Someone they trusted. But I was on my own when it came to paying rent and looking after essentials. I agreed to their terms and so it was decided. But the day they pulled out from the driveway of our first family home, moving van loaded up with my childhood toys, my bed and dresser, van full to the brim with my four younger siblings and weeping mother- that is a day that will forever be imprinted on my memory.

I lasted until the following Monday evening when I finally caved, coming to my senses as well as the bittersweet realization that I needed to be with my family. I needed to go home, whatever that meant now. There was a scramble- a gathering of my own small assemblage of life possessions and a drive from one province to another. Which is to say, I found a way to reunite with my family a few days later, as bittersweet as that reunion might have felt in those moments.

That move crushed me- left me feeling as if the bottom had fallen out from my world. And it left me to cope with the difficult task of starting over, starting fresh at a time in one’s life when they should be celebrating the finish line.

I found myself in a brand new school. A strange place to find yourself when you are sixteen, in love and at the pinnacle of your school career. Starting over- it was humbling. Perhaps what I needed, although I wouldn’t have said so then. I went from knowing everyone to knowing no one. From being part of a crowd to feeling outside the crowd. I went from having a presence to feeling invisible. But at the time, I would have readily admitted it was my worst sixteen year old nightmare come true.

Somehow I managed to pull things together enough to make it work. I made a few friends, did well in my courses and tried to keep up on the news from my former school and friendship circle, places and people I identified in my heart as my real home.

There were a few classes in the new school that I did enjoy, especially one taught by a Mr. T. A funny, earnest man, he infused life into the classrooms with his stories, his wealth of knowledge and his love of all things chemistry. And I can’t remember at what point in the semester he called me down to his classroom for a chat, but I will never forget the care and concern in his voice. Somehow, he had seen me there in the back row of his classroom, hiding underneath a veil of resentment, fear and insecurity- angry that my life had been interrupted. And in spite of it all, he made a point of looking past the image so as to connect with me. Letting me know that I had potential- that he saw the best in me at a time in my life when I couldn’t see the best in my circumstances.

Mr. T was unforgettable. Was it the chemistry lessons he delivered? The curriculum outcomes he covered? Was it his vast knowledge and seemingly infinite understanding I remember? What was it exactly that forever etched his impression on my memory?

What I remember now as a teacher myself was his smile. His laughter. And I remember that he saw me.

There are times in our service as teachers when we set aside the act of doing for the sacred work of being. When lessons and lectures, activities and testing are momentarily shelved, playing second fiddle to the art of listening. When caring is the curriculum, and life is the lesson. There are times when we see that our noble profession is more than mere passing on of knowledge. A routine work of filling empty vessels. And those are the times when we see through new eyes- our students. See them as people. As possibility. We see them for the potential they truly are. Those times remind us- it is the care we infuse into our work that makes the difference.

Such is the life and calling of a teacher.