Gratitude Begets Gratitude

Gratitude Begets Gratitude

Do you know what it takes to get a compliment from a senior?  You keep them after class under the threat of a detention and listen to them try to get out of it.

Some students are just harder to love than others.  It isn’t impossible to love them, but the effort that goes into desiring to love them is significantly more.  So when a student that fits in this category pushes matters too far, I have to reflect more about the consequences that behavior should incur.  Because part of me wants to go all out and give them a harsh consequence.  The cumulation of past difficulties with that student or the tension of the particular day must all be weighed to guarantee that the punishment given fits that individual crime.

Yet I’m certain that just as some students are harder by nature to love, some teachers must fall into the same camp.  I can definitely acknowledge that I’m not the most loved teacher and I am pretty convinced that I never will be.  That doesn’t generally bother me because I’ve experienced life in a rather similar state.  High school and college didn’t find me as the most popular person around; therefore, I didn’t expect something magical to happen when I started teaching.

Despite not being the most loved, I do find comfort in being loved by some.  As an introvert, that is all I really need anyway–a few people who see under the often reserved exterior.  Those glimpses of love and appreciation from students does far more to boost me than they know.  At the end of the school year, a student stopped in with a present for me and she thanked me for my patience over the past year.  A few students wrote appreciation letters when given the chance for teacher appreciation week.  Another student chose to write his own addition to the journal entries I assigned.

That last one perhaps struck me the most.  Continue reading “Gratitude Begets Gratitude”

Advertisements

Gratitude for Community

At different times I find myself missing college.  While it was stressful and filled with numerous papers, I miss the unique setting that is found in living in the dorm and sharing my daily life with many others.  The fact that a perpetual adoration chapel was only a short walk away was also a major benefit.  Sometimes I was overwhelmed by the constant stream of people around campus, prohibiting any chance of being alone and filling my melancholic soul with stillness and silence.  Despite that, I found it invigorating to be surrounded by young people my age who desired to zealously live out the faith.  Of course they failed, but it was to my never-ending joy to be able to enter into deep theological discussions at the drop of the hat.

Once experiences the beauty of such an environment, everything else seems to not compare.  Now I don’t live in a place that is teeming with young Catholics.  I have a real job and I have to concern myself with money.  The goal now, as opposed to the liberal spending of college, is to earn more than I spend.  College was a steady stream of cash poured from my pockets and from the pockets of a couple banks.

Yet every now and then I am able to recognize the beauty of the present moment.  I remember that I live with three young women that are on fire for the Lord.  That we do engage in deep conversations, that we are sharing our lives together, and that we can challenge each other to delve deeper into our faith.  Last night we had a women’s prayer group meeting at my house and I was filled again with a sense of gratitude.  Women from different jobs, places, backgrounds, and lives came together to be rooted in prayer.  At one point I was concerned that our conversation would be offensive to some of the new ladies but I was even more encouraged to find out they weren’t.  We could talk about praying outside Planned Parenthood, contraception, ObamaCare, medical ethics, Catholic hospitals, and much more without any tension or conflict.  We seemed to be in one accord.

I thanked the Lord that I didn’t live on my own but with women I can grow with.  I am not alone in my faith or without Catholic friends, but rather the Lord is increasing and strengthening these friendships.  My community may be small, but it is sufficient for me.  The Lord provides.  He knows what I need and He is supplying.  Perhaps not in the abundance that I dream of or desire, but in the amount that is perfect, necessary, and manageable.  

Deo Gratias

“We don’t actually think you’re crazy.” 

I smiled at that as the student walked out the door.  While I wasn’t extremely worried that they thought I was, there was a moment today when I wondered if I had pushed them over the edge. 

We were finishing up a PowerPoint from yesterday about Purgatory and someone asked a question that related to saints, although I’m not quite certain what it was at the time.  The saint they used as an example was St. Anthony.  Oftentimes I don’t share personal stories with them for a few reasons but today one instantly came to mind.

“I got in a fight with St. Anthony once.”

They looked up at me, puzzlement chiseled into their features.

“When I was younger my mom always told us to pray to St. Anthony if I lost something.  So I would pray that he would help me find my overdue library book.  And he would.  One month later after I already bought the book.  So I finally got mad at him and told him I wasn’t going to pray to him anymore.  And so we didn’t talk for a while.”

“Wait…you and your mom?  Or you and St. Anthony?”

“St. Anthony.”

I looked at their faces.  They wore a bemused expression but they were all paying attention and seemed interested.

“You guys think I’m crazy.”  The entire class laughed.  I knew that telling them about a close relationship with a saint (i.e. a physically dead person) probably didn’t strike them as the most normal thing.  But the positive thing is that theology teachers can get away with crazy things and the students just chalk it up to their faith.

“Anyway, I started talking to him again and now he helps me find things all of the time.  St. Anthony is great!”

The PowerPoint presentation continued and I put the incident out of my mind.  While they are one of my favorite classes they also are often the least productive.  The interesting story of St. Anthony was replaced with a frustration that they weren’t working on their assignment but seemed to be talking about everything but theological matters.  Yet when that student told me that they didn’t really think I was crazy, the frustration melted away and I had an “I’m glad I’m a teacher” gushing of emotions.  Of course, it isn’t the easiest thing to do and sometimes I want to give up, but it does have moments of joy and gratitude.

Some of my sophomores even claim that they wish they were me.  I was rather shocked by that statement but then I realized it was induced by my close proximity to their conversation and their combined frustrations over school, tests, and homework.  “I wish I was you, Miss ——”  Instantly my weekly life flashed before my eyes and I was firmly convinced that if they knew my life, they would be immediately grateful for their own.  Late nights grading papers, frantic test-writing, suppers with the parents, euphoria over Friday nights that end in an early bedtime…yes, they would sprint back to their current lives if they knew much more.  Their claim that I didn’t have any homework to do was the added cherry to the top.  Despite my vehement internal opposition to their claims, I had to laugh at the naivete of my lovely sophomores.

I like my life.  It may appear boring or mundane to others.  But it has a fair amount of joy and blessings mixed in with the suffering and trials.  Too often we are in a state of discontent.  I want to just thank the Lord right now for this moment of contentment.  For the sunshine outside, the weekend languidly spread before me, the empty classroom that was just occupied by so many beautiful, wandering, searching young souls, the jeans of a dress down day, the love of friends and family, the imminent Sacrifice of the Mass, and the knowledge that someday all of this will end and what will replace it will be infinitely better. 

Deo gratias.