lessons learned in the hall…

As I study and teach, I continue to weave together what I’ve lived with what I find in research conclusions. One such example is this: “perception is an interpretive process.” What we have previously learned comes to bear on what we encounter, on how we perceive what is happening at any given time. Ever wonder why individuals take such different things away from a lecture, a sermon, a report? This is part of the reason that happens.

I think back on my childhood, what a tumultuous time I had…I recall that year of all years, the 5th grade, the many days, weeks, and months I sauntered into the school, up the hallway, and slid into my desk that was stationed just outside the classroom door where all the other 5th graders were housed. Why was I there? Hmmm…well, that is a mighty good question, one I haven’t fully answered yet.

What I can tell you is that I wasn’t there for rebellion, disobedience, or any other willful disruption. I had sadness, deep, perpetual sadness that lingered for days on end. This sadness was released in tears, silent tears no less, because I had long-since learned to mute the sound as not to disturb others, but I never was able, in those young, tender years, to master control over the watery tears that ran like a leaky faucet, down my face and dripped onto my small, still lap. But, oh how I tried…

Early in that fateful school year, my teacher called me into the hallway where he told me I would be staying until I learned to control my tears as they were bothersome to the other children. And it is there that I remained. He gave me my lessons for the day and I did them alone. I was granted opportunity to ask him questions a couple of times during the day, seldom did I as I preferred to remain in my shell where it was far safer than venturing dialogue with others.

Some useful things I learned that year are these: I learned that adults, well-educated adults, in respected positions of authority often fail to understand what, to me, matters most. I learned that most other adults, well-educated and employed to teach and to train, would more often than not look the other way when a “difficult/different” child is being mishandled. I learned that kids can be mean, cruelly so, and adults, again, would look the other way. I learned that most choose what is easiest, not what is right; that children are indeed, “the least of these” and have no rights when it comes to their own hearts, minds, and even bodies. I learned not to trust. I learned that suffering is oh so personal and best kept to oneself to be sorted out in silence, and if possible, without tears.

Many of you know I dropped out of high school at the end of 9th grade. Maybe now that makes a little more sense to you. However, it wasn’t until, during that 9th grade year, that I learned from the school secretary that the counselor I had sought out for help with my long-standing distress, had broken confidence and discussed my difficulties with her…Oh the grief! Further broken trust and again in the school, among educators, those entrusted with the training of young minds.

Not only did I have the shame of my tears, I added to that the shame of quitting, of becoming a drop out, further marking myself as different, as less than. It’s okay now, really, because The Good Lord has indeed used it for good, and He continues to.

He blessed me with opportunity to go back to school in my early twenties. College was different. There, I was challenged and because I had practiced teaching myself since 5th grade, the challenge was well-received. I quickly saw, “hey, I can do this and I can do it well!” And so I did…

Honors program, 3 colleges, and then the letter…yeah, the letter from Harvard that came in the mail, TOTALLY unexpected, inviting me to apply. They had reviewed my academic records and my GRE score as a result of the computer-based GRE I had taken and found me a good candidate for many of their programs.

Ahhh…the joy, the smiles, the quiet celebration in my heart over this, the knowing that God alone could orchestrate something so poignant as to say to me in my depths, “I have seen it all and I am here to mend you.”

He placed me in the halls of an ivory tower and it was our secret, mine and His, each day as I went from class to class with a perpetual smile on my face, that HIs plans succeed and they are indeed good.

He didn’t educate me, with my unique perspective, for me to remain silent. He, true to HIs character, is using it all for good. He is giving me courage to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. He strengthens me to love through the hurt, to lift up what matters most to my own children and to each precious one that sits under my teaching in a classroom. When we teach, we are accountable to God Himself, for our handling of hearts and minds. I am broken, yes, broken and healed and its all good because He lets nothing be wasted in the lives of those who live surrendered to goodness, HIs goodness, It’s all HIs.

Tired of shame. Tired of the least of these being overlooked and mistreated. Tired, just tired, but still giving it my all. Rest will come, one day, rest will come.

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