After two weeks away from the remote school where I teach, I returned to frozen and burst water pipes in the trailer where I “camp out.” My first night back, the trailer was waterless, except for two three-gallon jugs I cadged from a neighbor.
One of the maintenance guys spent all day Monday repairing the damage. After school, I found him packing his tools and getting ready to leave.
“So, how long are you going to stay here?” he asked as he headed for the front door.
“Oh, about 20 years,” I said.
“That means May,” he said.
“Why do you say that?”
“Oh, a lot of teachers say they’re going to stay for five years, then they leave in May.”
“Well, how about if I fool you and I don’t leave in May?”
“That’d be all right.”
When I shared this conversation with a long-time friend, I received this reply:
ahhh don’t you think twenty will be just right my Buddy…
i certainly do…by then you will still be a young elder
and can you imagine all of the hearts which will hold you
because they could trust you to “stay.”
Always i have found the hardest part of the journey…is to
My friend is right: The hardest part of the journey is to stay. Leaving for what I think might be greener pastures is always a temptation. Other schools in other states pay much more than I am earning here. Living conditions would be better farther south of this cold, barren land. For one thing, I wouldn’t have to worry about frozen water pipes! Sometimes this place tries my patience.
Patience [writes theologian Henri J.M. Nouwen in Bread for the Journey] is a hard discipline. It is not just waiting until something happens over which we have no control: the arrival of the bus, the end of the rain, the return of a friend, the resolution of a conflict. Patience is not a waiting passivity until someone else does something. Patience asks us to live the moment to the fullest, to be completely present to the moment, to taste the here and now, to be where we are. When we are impatient we try to get away from where we are. We behave as if the real thing will happen tomorrow, later and somewhere else. Let’s be patient and trust that the treasure we look for is hidden in the ground on which we stand.
I wonder if I have what it takes to “stand” on this ground for the next twenty years—or even the next five. Only time will tell…