Monday, February 24, 2014

Hard Questions, Easy Answers

As teachers, we spend a lot of time trying to explain why things are the way they are or were the way they were.  Sometimes we do a pretty good job; other times, we come up short, often because WE don’t even fully understand.  Just recently, a student picked up the latest book from the I Survived series and asked me out of the blue, “What is a Nazi, anyway?  A coworker walked in my classroom as I was stumbling over an explanation and as our eyes met, we both shrugged a little, as if to say, “How do you explain something so unthinkable?

Then there are those times when the students don’t even need to ask, or they answer each other’s questions before you even have the chance, because what makes no sense to you actually does make sense to them.   As grown-ups, we can’t help but over-analyze, over-think, and over-feel every situation.   We think we should know it all, be able to fix it, and what we can’t fix upsets us, so we don’t want to think about it at all.  With kids, it’s different.  They want to break apart every situation not because they think they can fix it but because they want to understand it.  They truly believe there must be a reasonable explanation for everything.

Twice in the past few days I’ve been struck and amazed by the perspective of my fourth graders.  Two separate situations, both of which would’ve left me speechless, never even required my assistance thanks to the wisdom of these ten-year-olds.  The first happened last Friday.  We were watching a video about Ruby Bridges, the first black child to attend an all-white school in the South in the early 1960s.  Each morning, as she walked into school, she faced protestors yelling and threatening her.  My students were mesmerized, wide-eyed and disgusted at the way this child was treated.  The actress in the movie asked her mother, “When will they stop?” and no sooner were the words out of her mouth than one of my boys said, “When the Lord gets in their hearts, they will!

He looked back toward me as soon as the words were out of his mouth, wondering if he’d crossed the line, I’m sure.  I just smiled knowingly and gave a little nod of agreement, which put a big grin on his face, and he turned back to the screen.  I wasn’t the only person in the room to agree with him; a few other students nodded or murmured a “yeah.”  It was a heartening scene to me, to put it mildly; one of those moments when I knew I was exactly where God wanted me to be. 

It’s amazing to me how often God makes His presence known in a place where He is welcomed, privately even if not publicly.  This morning, the very next school day, our morning announcements had an addition: a moment of silence for a local middle school boy who passed away over the weekend after a long illness.  I knew my students would have questions and I answered them the best I could, again stumbling over words and ready to quickly move on to math, where I actually DO have the all the answers. 

As I turned to make the transition, one of my students who ALWAYS has one more thing to say, blurted out, “Mrs. Jones?” I impatiently said, “Yes?” still hoping to change the subject, as he stopped me dead in his tracks with his statement, “At least he’s in a better place now.  As I quietly nodded, put in my place for sure, the little girl beside him put the icing on the cake with simply two words to end his sentence: “…with Jesus.”  They both nodded, and I smiled, knowing WE were with Jesus too, in a different way, in that very moment, and pretty sure that He was smiling too.

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