Together is The Way to Be

When I go to church on Sunday morning, I think I don’t have impossible expectations. But it would be nice if everyone could be there on time. And please don’t expect me to chat with you while we’re singing because I don’t like being disturbed from focusing on the song and leader.

Would it be so much to ask to have the window cracked, so I could breath? Would it really be the death of anyone to have a light breeze in the room? It’s hard for me to concentrate on the speaker while I’m breathing fumes of fried onions and bad personal hygiene. I try sucking mints and holding my hand to my nose so as to smell the (nice) (Irish) lotion I used, but I still feel nauseated and need huge self-control to keep from bolting out the door.

When we’re drinking tea together afterwards, I want to have meaningful conversations, not negativity or complaining or arguing. I like to argue, but not after church. Let’s please try to take a day off from our vices.

We work hard to clean the place every Sat. and in several hours on Sun. the floor has clouds of dirt scattered around, sugary tea is splashed down the steps, empty water cups stand around, song books and chairs are anywhere and everywhere. It would be nice if someone else would care about keeping the place clean instead of just using it and leaving.

I could stay at home on Sunday mornings and be more comfortable on most every level. I could talk to God; He could talk to me. I could sing alone. I could even listen to a sermon. There could be worship and communication and encouragement.

But there wouldn’t be community.

I’m finding that when I leave seclusion and walk into a messy, unpredictable universe full of  personalities and bodies, there are a lot of aspects that prickle, disturb, irritate me. But I would also miss out on way too many things that make my life richer.

So yesterday, I could hardly breathe during the service for the smell and the stuffy air. But there were wise words spoken, sad news shared, tears, hugs, and songs. There was care and love poured out, worship and surrender. Glints of beauty sparkled around us–beauty that I’m not willing to do without.

There’s a woman who searches me out every Sunday to kiss  me and ask how I am, because she knows that I’m not always ok, and sometimes we’ve cried together, mingled tears on cheeks. There’s another who tells me about her week, and says she has stories to tell me when we’ll meet later in the day. There are creative little people in Sunday school who chatter happily to me and draw pictures as easily as they breathe.

Community means give and take. Not liking some things, but welcoming other things. It means color and texture (did I mention smells?) and depth that is impossible to find anywhere except together. I like it that way.

School Year Superlatives

Thinking/speaking/writing in superlatives is a habit that I should maybe try to break, but at the end of a school year, it could be fitting to remember some of the best and worst moments of the year. Besides, an English teacher who teaches comparatives should be allowed to use superlatives now and then.

  •  The evening 3 teen boys came for a lesson expecting  a man teacher, not a girl who looked to them like a nun. They reacted by giggling uncontrollably but ended up being good students while they lasted.
  • The Business English lesson that I’d valiantly tried to prepare but in class I realized that I hadn’t understood the material after all. I choked down the panic and guided the discussion to something I could talk about, which didn’t include loans and banks.
  •  The  lady who spent most of the lesson talking about her problems after her baby died. She threw her arms around me twice as we said goodbye for the summer.
  •   Licking cones with two 12-yr old girls who said they like these classes and want to come back next year. Yes, dearies, I like these lessons too— particularly the ones with ice cream in them.
  •  The student friend who texted “I want to come kiss you before the summer break. When are you at school?”
  •   Holding the 7 yr old on my lap for an Amelia Bedelia story, and hearing her giggles at all the right times.
  •  Rollicking laughter during the first lesson with a girl who could be a model. I asked her why she wants to go to Italy. “Because the men are so beauuuuuutiful! What’s the word for joke? It’s a good joke!”

You don’t get the dialague unless you’re used to hearing conversations with people whose English is their second language.  But simple language and laughter helps recharge my batteries and make me ready for the next day’s lessons.

I’m endlessly thankful that the best teaching moments far out-number the worst ones. I’m tired now. My brain is barely functional. But I have  every reason to expect that come September, I’ll be ready to give my students everything I have. Which means I give them more than words. I give them my heart. Big chunks of it. Maybe that’s partly why I’m tired.

Time to go find my heart.