I was catching up with an acquaintance. He asked me why I’m still in Poland, his country.
“I love teaching English,” I said simply.
We talked about his family, farm, neighbors, and circled back to my job.
“My students are wonderful,” I said. “I LOVE my students!”
“No,” he corrected me seriously. “You love your JOB.”
Hmmm, well. That’s not what I just said.
He was making the point that when you’re happy in your work, you’re willing to put up with bad days, and it doesn’t make you start looking for an opening somewhere else.
I love my job, it’s true. When class is in session I forget about pretty much everything outside the classroom. It always surprises me how soon the clock say it’s time to wrap up. (There are rare exceptions.) I’m definitely in my zone when I’m teaching English, but it’s way more than my joy in gerunds, infinitives, and pronunciation.
Because my students are absolutely the best. They are brimming with life and whimsy and cleverness. They tell me the wildest stories and ambitions. They are quick and kind. They are beautiful and fascinating and brave.
So I laugh with the lady who told me she’s so practical that her boyfriend’s first gift to her was a mixer. To the new father whose baby cries a lot, I say that I’m praying for them, and he is profusely grateful. I’m in awe at the woman who lives in joy and forgiveness for her husband who divorced her. I treasure the surprising turn of phrase and sparkling eyes. I do everything I can to equip my students to have good English conversations, but most of all I want them to feel safe and loved, no matter their level of English.
Most people have few places where they accepted just as they are, without being judged or scowled at for their clothes or education or occupation or performance or weight. Disapproval especially seems to hang thick in the air of this post-communist country. Hardly a generation ago, people on these streets were paid to be informers on their non-conformist neighbors, and old habits die hard.
But the tendency isn’t unique to certain political systems. I know my own insidious tendency to rank, cull, and venerate at will, and I know only Jesus’ presence is what can erase judgement and disdain. He is my leader, and His love was magnetic, and I want to be like Him.
This is what I pray and sing:
Heal their hearts, feed their souls,
Their lives can be golden if Your love enfolds. –Bill Whelan