Photo: My dining room at 10pm on Wednesday. My students had only just left after a really fantastic final class.
I am so sorry for not writing on Wednesday. Between end-of-year parties with school, a major deadline to hit for the Rector search, wrapping up my class, and preparing for summer… it was a full, full day.
I asked my students to write and share a scene from their stories. I gave them three weeks to work it out. My students asked if we might be able to share our stories in a more comfortable setting, preferably with wine… and since I’ve been teaching my class at the local high school, we needed to find a new location. It didn’t take much to transform my little dining room into a cozy little writer’s lounge. The big-ass box of Multi-grain Cheerios most certainly added to the ambiance. I supplied brie and prosciutto, my students brought prosecco, chardonnay, strawberries and cake. It was a party, with words at the centerpiece. Thank God I only had 4 students, else cozy would quickly have turned into cramped. 🙂
Each woman rolled up at 7 with their goodies and their papers. They were giggly, but nervous. I can totally relate. We laughed and shared, I gave a mini-lesson about critique… we talked a little bit about where they can go from here (“This is the hard part. You’ve got to commit to writing until your story is told!”), and then came the moment of truth: “Okay. Who wants to be brave and go first?”
I was prepared to go first. Shouldn’t every teacher be so prepared? I prepped the first scene of my novel and I’d been practicing the reading throughout the day between all my appointed Mom tasks. Prepared as I was, I was relieved when one of my students jumped into the hot seat (the white chair by the window) and got the ball rolling.
Each woman showcased a different talent in her piece. One has an incredible reverence for language. Another has the natural ability to transport a reader to a different world (and make the reader want to linger and explore). One woman knows exactly how to tug on the threads of different relationships, inviting a reader into intimate family stories with ease and charm. My most nervous student brought the absolute best example of pacing and tension building, leaving us all at the edge of our seats.
My Quiet Thoughts are on the the selfish gratification of watching students have triumphant moments. I’d forgotten, sincerely, how good it feels to watch students come to the end of a journey and discover just how much they’ve learned. The relief, quickly followed by that glowing moment of “I did it! And I wasn’t half bad!” could be seen on every one of their faces after each reading. I don’t quite have the language to fully capture how wonderful it feels to have made a space for each of these women to explore and grow, seeing for themselves just what they are made of.
In the end, I had to write them a thank you email today. Not just as a professional courtesy, but as a sincere expression of my gratitude. I walked away from teaching 7 years ago. My passion for it had been practically snuffed out because of the place where I worked. I didn’t think I’d be able to return to it. Here is something new and different and unexpected out of something familiar and dearly loved. Joy upon joy.
My Quiet Thoughts are also on the crossroad moments that brought each of us to Wednesday. A suggestion that I consider teaching at Community College turned into me writing a proposal and sending it to my local community extended education department. These 4 women saw my ad and decided to take a chance. Along the way, we each chose to open up to something new, digging deep and trying hard. 8 weeks of good work culminated in happy, boozy giggles and fine stories read in a tiny dining room. I’m reminded that it doesn’t take much in this world to make beautiful things happen. Just a cascade of decisions–open-hearted, vulnerable, and yet hopeful.
Just as we’re living in a world where decades of convenient, comfortable, thoughtless decisions have brought us to unbearable consequences, I believe that change and redemption are still possible. We are, each of us, at a transition point, a crossroad of being. If this is a world that is utterly intolerable to you, there are opportunities to do something about it right this second. You must be your change, Dear Reader. You must give in order to get a better world. Don’t wait to be an expert (I didn’t, for sure). Just do something. Now.
And if you don’t think you can do something for the impossibly big problems, decide that you’re going to do something for the local problems right where you are. What good could happen in your own tiny dining room, Dear Reader? What thoughtful minds and helpful hands can you bring to your table?
On this warm Friday, with milky skies going through a transition of their own, I wish you a bit of silent time. Sit in your feelings: of rage, of disappointment, of helplessness, of fear, of sadness. Sit in your feelings of mourning—mourning a country you thought you knew, mourning an understanding of the world that is now completely gone. Give yourself the silent space to be with your thoughts this weekend. It is here, in thoughtful silence, in focused discernment, that you will find your voice of change. Ideas will come. Ideas that will move you away from your feelings and out into action. I wish you the opportunity to lend a hand, to raise your voice, to do the right thing, to move out of helplessness and into helpfulness. I wish you the opportunity to be your change this weekend, Dear Reader. Even if it’s only for a small amount of time. Even if it’s helping just one person in your small corner of the world. Be the change this weekend, Dear Reader. Do something. I promise you will feel better.
Remember that you are a bright shining light in a deep, dark world. As long as you shine, hope is not lost. Be here for the work. Love the work because it is worth it. Do the work because your values demand it. Do the work because people are depending on you. Do the work because you know others are, too.
Be here for the work because you are loved and you are infinitely beautiful and you are enough. You can be the change you’re hoping for.
Keep fighting your fire,
Keep lending water to the fire burning brightly at the border,
Keep holding your government accountable,
Keep asking your neighbors to care about others,
Keep shining brightly in the darkness,
and take care.