Monday, October 03, 2005

Establish the kingdom of heaven on earth

Well, *that* was an education! And more for me than for them.

As I mentioned on Friday, I taught at the public middle school. What a new respect I have for teachers, for students, for the trials that everyday people face, and my own comparatively easy life. Maybe it's just that your own life seems easy because you're used to it, but to me it felt like what happens at schools every day would take me a long time to master.

First, the teacher, who every hour has to command the attention of up to thirty middle schoolers. I know she's doing a great job with this, because for me, every class was attentive, courteous and responsive. She teaches 90 students every day, and appears to have a great relationship with all of them. I thought I could love effectively; this woman does it like breathing.

Next, the students. Our town is significantly diverse, so there were kids from all walks of life, backgrounds, and races. Yet there was no tension over this. White, black, Latino, Asian, it made no never mind. Everyone treated each other with respect. The joking around and teasing was indiscriminate, that's for sure! In witnessing this, it just seemed to me that a minor miracle is taking place among the rising generation. Race is on its way to becoming a non-issue.

The kids also asked insightful questions and responded to my talk with healthy curiosity. Mind you, this was a talk on 6th century Byzantine history. Anyone who thinks young people today can't fathom or aren't interested in meatier subjects is off base.

Finally, I had the privilege of being invited to lunch with the teacher. Several girls make a habit of eating lunch with her in her classroom, and this small group is a support group of sorts. In matter-of-fact voices, they share the inner workings of their lives. One girl couldn't afford the $2 lunch and was afraid to ask her mom for money because money is always short in her family. Another has a mom on disability. Another mom is retired from the Army but can't now find a job.

So another girl offered to bring an extra lunch from home, where her Latina mother cooks abundant meals and would be happy to share. Another shared her lunch on the spot. The teacher said she too could bring an extra sandwich from home, they should just let her know. I felt a new gratitude for the cheeseburger and salad I'd gotten from the cafeteria, and was slightly embarrassed to be throwing away half the bun (a vestige of the Atkins habit).

Sorry to go on so long about all this, I just wanted to paint you a bit of a picture. By the end of the day, I felt very white, and very privileged, but also so out-classed by the dignity and camaraderie I'd witnessed. I wonder sometimes what my life would have been like with all the same circumstances but I'd instead been born Latina or black. Would I have had the same victories? Would I have had the same opportunities?

And now I'm thinking, as I did shortly after Katrina hit, how can I level the playing field a bit more? Is there more I can do to ensure that everyone has the same opportunities and victories? To be as bright and inquisitive as these kids are yet to have to worry every day about where lunch is coming from—how do we fix that?

I'm still absorbing what this all means to me, and it's definitely already led to a wider prayer of gratitude for all the unseen goodness rampant in the world. I want to broaden my view yet further, and be a part of our collective growth toward harmony.

For some reason, I'm reminded of this passage where Mary Baker Eddy is relating her discovery of Christian Science:

The three great verities of Spirit, omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, — Spirit possessing all power, filling all space, constituting all Science, — contradict forever the belief that matter can be actual. These eternal verities reveal primeval existence as the radiant reality of God's creation, in which all that He has made is pronounced by His wisdom good.

Thus it was that I beheld, as never before, the awful unreality called evil. The equipollence of God brought to light another glorious proposition, — man's perfectibility and the establishment of the kingdom of heaven on earth.

--Science and Health

"The establishment of the kingdom of heaven on earth." Sign me up.

Your ideas and inspiration are welcome! Please comment below or Contact Laura.
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At 10/07/2005 08:05:00 PM, Blogger Laura said...

I'm just testing a new setting, nothing profound here! thanks for checking!



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