Friday, August 24, 2007

New Zoo Review

Do you remember that show? I remember lying on the floor at my grandparents' house in Estill Springs, Tennessee, my chin in my hands, watching the giant, trippy pink (or was it blue?) hippo dancing around with other strangely pastel dancing animals in this sort of plastic cul-de-sac, dancing off of strange front porches and hanging out in weird, backless studio kitchens. They sang irritating songs, wore funky/Cottonpatch Gospel sorts of costumes, and it seems like they all sported Barbra Streisand Afros. It was weird. And I loved it.

I miss those mornings in my grandparents' house. My PapaJim would be making breakfast, whistling or humming something with his tenor vibrato, and my grandmother would be elegantly...doing something. What did she do? I don't know. She was just sort of always there, always with this beautiful accent and funny laugh and this oddly gorgeous fragrance of Oil of Olay and cigarette smoke-- don't get me wrong: she was straight-up classy. She smoked that cigarette that comes (or came-- haven't seen them in a while) in Menthol green packaging... it was the cigarette that Jackie O. and John F. Kennedy smoked. Her fragrance, his humming, their yard, the roses, her to-die-for tuna fish sandwiches....

I had an amazing childhood. Parents who were (and are) fun and adventurous, a brother who was funny and worshipped me (what more could you want in a companion, I ask you), and I slept safe in my bed every night. No one hurt me. My innocence was complete. I was naive in all the ways a child should be naive.

And sometimes, I look at the children who are in my life now and I wonder what bliss they would be in to experience even an hour of my childhood. To be disciplined by my father, to be loved by my mother, to be pestered by my little brother. It causes me to check my expectations-- some of them; not all-- when I assume that things or people should be one way or another.

It's not the first time I have thought about these things, of course-- I've been in youth ministry in one form or another for years now-- but I looked out of my classroom door a few minutes ago and saw the children of two of my co-workers running wildly out in the hallway (they come here after school while their folks work). These little tow-headed angels were screaming their heads off, playing tag or trying to talk people out of spare change for a coke or something, and I was reminded again of the strangeness of lots in life. When one of the kids told a co-worker that a piece of technology breaking down was God's way of saying that He was on their side (so they shouldn't have to do any more word problems or something), I told her [joking] that her comeback could be that, no, the malfunction of that technology was a result of the fall. We live in a fallen world. Things that are not His will happen every day.

Fathers abandoning babies, mothers abusing their children, poverty so extreme we cannot wrap our minds around it, follow these children through our hallowed doors every day. How can I expect a mind to grasp "foreshadowing" when that mind hasn't been nourished in days? And I wonder at the apparent...dare I say it... capriciousness of "bad luck." Who gets the idyllic childhood and who gets Freddy Krueger for a cousin?

It's not capricious. It's the nature of the sovereignty of God. But it's too big for me-- it's overwhelming. And here is where my brain must go:

We cannot know who will get what lot, and why. Good, beautiful children are robbed of their innocence in a thousand ways, every day-- by hurtful adults or television shows, but robbed all the same. But the same God loves each one desperately. How could we ever chart on graphs the ways pain affects each of us? We can never know if it all somehow evens out in the end, but it doesn't matter-- because the same amount of love required to mend and heal is available to each individual. The God who can heal molestation can heal a broken heart. The God who can tend to the wounds of the verbally abused is just as moved to heal the ones disappointed, the ones whose hopes have been deferred for one reason or another. He is close to the brokenhearted, and He does not seem to categorize or prioritize: everyone is RIGHT NOW on His list.

Hm. So I'll be heading out to think about that.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Week Two: Alive and Kickin'

I had so many things I wanted to say, but they all seem to have flown right out of my ears. I think it's the heat. All day long, I exist in a sort of winter wonderland, cocooned in my little 53 degree world-- until the late afternoon, when I drag myself through those metal doors into the parking lot from hell: it's so hot. Stepping outside is like stepping into an oven set on broil. The Dead Sea was not this hot. It is unreasonably, astoundingly, almost-global-warming-convincingly hot. Hot, I tell you.

But school is cool. My friends, this is where it's at. If you have been wondering where "it" is at, I have found it: it is here. Yes, dear ones, in the land of the Lost Children-- in the community which played host to gonasyphaherpales (hm. wonder how you spell out those diseases.... I'd look it up, but this computer is TOAST and keeps kicking me off), we find some of the best kids I've ever met, and some of the most inspired teachers and administrators. I am beyond lucky to have landed here just out of grad school. I'm lucky like crazy (the pictures you are seeing here were taken the weekend before school began-- it's slightly different now-- slightly more blue-- but this is the idea...)

That's not to say that I haven't had my moments over the last couple of weeks. Yesterday, I starred in the "Oh my gosh, this is what happens when you don't look carefully at the handbook before giving an assignment" Show. The whole class hinged on this one little thing for a variety of reasons. It threw me off for the whole 90 minutes, but fortunately we seem to like each other pretty well and I promised the kids that I would go back to being a real teacher on Monday if they swore not to tell their parents about the tragedy which was 7th period. We all agreed. And it was good.

There's more, of course. I think I've completely jacked up my attendance records for the last two days, have completely neglected to turn in to the office some important forms the kids had to turn in to me, and may have royally hacked a kid off with me this afternoon because I contacted his mom (but I'm okay with that one-- he'll get over it when he makes it to 10th grade because I wouldn't let him fail, right?), but other than that... it's been pretty great. I think I love it like crazy.

So that's that for now. Somebody told me at school today, "Mrs. Swaney, you are one of the happiest people I have ever seen." Well, I have Jesus in my heart, the love of a good man, and a paycheck coming at the end o' the month. What's not to be happy about??