When I was a kid my mom used to say to me, “Jimmy, you cry at the drop of a hat.” I never considered this to be much of a compliment but never took it as much of an offense, either. In fact, crying at the drop of a hat has turned out to be something of a gift as I’ve gotten older. Nowadays my tears are rarely the result of injury but rather of pardon or deliverance – a sign that something wonderful is happening. My first mentor in the Episcopal Church, Robin Jennings, told me once that tears were a sign of the presence of God.
I’m serving my Daily Cup later than usual today because last night, during the hours I usually write my contribution, I spent the evening with God’s presence rolling down my cheeks. I was blessed to attend the National Education Association Foundation’s annual gala. The event had been described to me as the Academy Awards of Public Education. As apt as that description is and despite the vast similarities between the two events – the venue was grand, the lighting was theatrical, the attire was black-tie optional and there were photographers and film camera crews running about – there was one exceptional (and holy) difference. The “film shorts,” video montages of the award winners at work, featured public school teachers and their kids rather than actors on movie sets pretending to be people they are not. Again and again throughout the night, amidst raucous applause and the whetted cheeks of cheerers, each exceptional educator – dressed as if they were receiving an Oscar – was escorted to the stage to receive the honor of a lifetime – oh my.
Since last night I’ve remembered many teachers of my own – Mr. McCauley who was infamous for the admonition (which he shouted regularly) that all students “Keep all four points of the chair on the floor!” and who’s dripping forehead sweat would smear the math problems he was illustrating on an overhead projector; Mrs. Wrede, a creative writing instructor who introduced the emotive adolescent that I was to Hugh Prather’s Notes To Myself (and who once returned a paper I wrote with a hand-written apology explaining that the top right-hand corner was missing because her rabbit chewed it off); and Mr. B, who, without doubt, is the reason I have lived much of my life as an artist.
I’ve also been thinking of the teachers in our own midst at St. Alban’s. Our lay leaders at Children’s Chapel and Sunday School, our Acolyte leaders, watching Ron lovingly instruct youth during worship, hearing the beautiful voices of chorister’s led by Sonya and regularly witnessing Lorena and Matthew endeavor to teach God’s statutes to our children and young adults. I’m also reminded of the ongoing educational work we support as a parish – the Bishop Walker School in DC and our recent and overwhelming Mustard Seed offering which helped to build two dormitories for young girls in the Sudan. Last night an award was given to a DC based initiative whose mission is to reduce illiteracy for children growing up in poverty. Check it out online at firstbook.org.
For all those whose teaching has enriched our lives and our minds, for our ministry to children at St. Alban’s and for all those who’s work in public schools makes a holy difference in the lives of children, let us pray:
Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom: Enlighten by your
Holy Spirit those who teach and those who learn, that,
rejoicing in the knowledge of your truth, they may worship
you and serve you from generation to generation; through
Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the
Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.