When he came after school that day, I knew he was being vulnerable. The clue is in how they sit. He walked in and said, "Hey, Mrs. Paxson, are you busy?" I said, "Of course not, what's up?" He immediately perched himself on the desk nearest me, legs slowly swinging.
I'm not sure what it is about the leg swing. Maybe it feels like mustering momentum to take a big leap. Maybe it's the comfortability of it all. Whatever the reason, the most defining of moments with my students happen when they are perched on a desk, not seated underneath it.
Maybe Mr. Keating was on to something.
Perhaps change doesn't happen in seats, but rather in making a stand, or sharing a story that makes you who you are.
That afternoon he shared his story of abandonment and feeling like he had no place to go and nobody to believe in him. As much as I would like to say otherwise, the story is not what shocked me. I hear too many stories to the same tune in a school and community that seems to be forgotten or painted red more often than valued.
What struck me was the self-awareness that followed the story. He said, "Guys like me, with my background and circumstances end up in jail or worse. I just don't want to be another statistic." His voice cracked as he stared at the ground, and I let the silence take over until he gained the courage to look me in the eye. This young man found himself at a crossroads.
Left: Statistic. Cliche. No way out. "Easy" path to a hard way of life.
Right: Overcome the odds. In spite of. In the face of everything he's been handed. "Hard" path to fulfilling his potential.
Over the year, as we've talked through this crossroads, he's discovered it's not just a decision here or there that matters. It's not just avoiding the bad, but rather waking up every day and deciding to run toward everything that's good.
This interaction has caused me to wonder, How can we quit wasting our time dodging the shadows and instead focus our energy on chasing the sun?
The danger of our culture is that it's run by fear. All too many are focused on what shouldn't happen, or what to avoid.
At some point, you have to realize, barely side-stepping the bad and "calling it good" is not the best we can do.
We were supposed to be better than this.
"Finally, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." -Philippians 4:8
At this point, our world is looking a little more like this:
Finally, whatever is slightly above board, whatever gets the most attention, whatever is the least amount of work, whatever gets the most likes, retweets or shares, if there is anything worthy of sarcasm or blast, think about these things.
I don't know about you, but I truly wonder:
- What would schools look like if teachers and administrators quit side-stepping, and getting by?
- What would classrooms look like if students did the same?
- What would our government look like if they were not retweeting the dark and negative, but promoting things that brought light and progress?
- How would our society change if fear was not the primary focus, but we were instead run by dreams and being the best we can be to everyone around us?
I don't know if my student is going to take the grace I've extended at every turn and use it for good, or just continue on his road thinking, "Thank goodness my teacher is so naive and overly trusting." I can't control that. I can only do the best I can for him and hold onto hope that believing people are capable of chasing the sun is half the battle.
Do you think people can step away from being run by fear?