Category Archives: thankfulness
…is helping to strengthen my soul.
More Six-Word Saturday
We give thanks to God always for you all, constantly mentioning you in our prayers…
1 Thessalonians 1:2, RSV
Snow fell during the night and when I looked out my window this morning, I was hoping that our superintendent would call a snow day or at least a two-hour delay. But the hoped-for reprieve from work never came and I trudged off to school with a heavy heart.
My heaviness lifted somewhat when I entered the nearly deserted school building, and it became apparent that many students were absent. My heart positively soared when I discovered that F-Boy was among the absentees. Not having to deal with him was worth having to work on a snowy day. Surely F-Boy’s absence was an answer to prayer.
Or was it?
After reading the opening words of St. Paul’s letter to his friends in Thessalonika, I’m not so sure.
Paul writes, “We give thanks to God always for you all…,“ not “We give thanks to God for most of you, but there are a few others that really deserve a lightning bolt or two.”
There must have been some irascible people in Thessalonika, just as there are some irascible students in my classroom. There must have been some of the church members in Thessalonika who didn’t know when to shut their mouths, just as I have students in my classroom who chatter incessantly. There must have been some folks in Thessalonika who couldn’t keep their noses out of other people’s business, just as I have students who like to paw through my desk drawers when I forget to lock them. Irascible people, chatterboxes, busybodies—and worse!
Never mind their shortcomings and imperfections, Paul says. I give thanks to God for them all.
Advent is the season of preparing to welcome the One who said, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”
And who are “the least of these”?
F-Boy, who tries my patience, is one of them. So is J-Boy, who can’t keep his hands to himself. So is N-Boy, who sleeps in my class. So is A-Boy, who literally throws his weight around (he’s a big guy!), sometimes trying to knock me off balance.
I have a long list of “the least of these.” I’m sure Paul had a long list of “the least of these” in mind when he wrote to the people of Thessalonika, but he didn’t single them out for reprimand or censure. He simply gave thanks for them.
Giving thanks has a way of softening hearts—both the heart of the one who gives thanks, and the hearts of those for whom thanks is given.
Thank you, F-Boy, for being in my class. I hope to see you tomorrow!
At the staff meeting this morning, the principal told us that we would be on a half-day schedule.”It’s homecoming day at the high school,” she said, “and I’ve gotten permission for our students to be at the parade.”
All of my lesson plans for a full-day schedule suddenly went by the wayside.
This was the first time that most of us had heard of the principal’s plan and we were not happy about having to rearrange our schedules on such short notice.
“I’m sorry,” said the principal, “but by the time I got back to the building yesterday afternoon from the administrators meeting, most of you were gone.”
“Well, that’s nice,” I muttered to another teacher after the meeting ended, “but she could have sent out an e-mail Thursday, warning us that we might be on a half-day schedule today.”
I was not looking forward to riding on the school bus and then standing in the blazing sun for over an hour. Neither were many of my colleagues.
But after lunch, we did what we were told, boarded the buses and headed over to the high school. Shortly after our middle school students arrived, buses bearing the elementary students pulled into the parking lot.
As the K-12 students lined up along the road in front of the high school, a siren shrieked and the parade began.
It wasn’t much as parades go: no marching band, no majorettes, no football players in uniform flexing their muscles. Only a fire truck, a handful of floats and a car with a couple of security guards tossing candy to the kids.
Despite the paucity of floats and the lack of lively marching music, I was suddenly transported back to my own childhood when parades were magical events and wondrous things could happen. Once, in Hugoton, Kansas, I got within a yard or so of Buddy Heaton’s bucking buffalo, when the wild-eyed beast charged from the street onto the sidewalk where I was standing with several of my classmates. Buddy had a hard time reining in the snorting, slobbering critter. What a thrill!
My rancor toward the principal began to melt away. Sure, she should have given us at least 24 hours’ notice about a possible half-day schedule, but why hold a grudge on this gorgeous, autumn day?
I pulled my camera out of my pocket and began to take pictures: little kids clapping excitedly as the bright red fire engine rumbled by; middle-schoolers scrambling for candy thrown from passing floats; three of my former students, now in high school, hiding their faces from the camera’s lens, as though they were celebrities and I were an annoying paparazzo.
Surrounded by hundreds of excited students, I found myself silently thanking the principal for her unexpected gift. (I’ll thank her in person when I see her Monday morning.)
Who wants to be cooped up indoors on a Friday afternoon when the sun is shining and there’s not a cloud in the sky? What better excuse to get outdoors than to see a homecoming parade?
Thanks to a rather generous grant, our school started out the year with brand-new lockers. In the morning, we escort students to their bright red lockers so that they can deposit their jackets and backpacks and get out their books, pencils and other supplies for the day. In the afternoon, we escort students back to their lockers to reclaim their backpacks and jackets. (The no-backpacks-in-class policy keeps contraband out of the classrooms.)
This afternoon, two seventh-grade girls were struggling with their lockers long after the hallway had emptied of other students. I offered to help. (Sometimes the kids get in a hurry and don’t enter their combinations just right, so the locker won’t open.)
Usually I manage to open a seemingly recalcitrant locker on the first try, but after three attempts on R-Girl’s locker, I was baffled.
“Wait!” she exclaimed. “What’s the number?”
She peered at the locker number and discovered that she had been trying to open the wrong locker. When she entered the combination on the correct locker, the door swung open immediately.
Meanwhile, A-Girl was still unable to open her locker. When she double checked the locker number, she discovered that she, too, had been trying to open someone else’s locker.
Both R-Girl and A-Girl made an important discovery this afternoon: If you use the right tools (in this case, your brain and fingers) in the right place (your locker, not someone else’s), and in the right way (enter the numbers correctly), you get the job done.
Or, to put it negatively: If you have a job to do and use the wrong tool, you’ll never get the results you hope for.
Thanks, girls, for teaching this teacher an important lesson about getting things done quickly and effectively.
How can we thank God enough for you…?
1 Thessalonians 3:9
Paul, the writer of the letter to the Thessalonians, is addressing people he loves. Even though he has never met these people face to face, he and they share a common faith, so he finds it easy to be profoundly thankful.
But what if you don’t have much in common with the people you work with every day? What if you are a teacher and your students seem to go out of their way to be rude, rowdy and rebellious?
Today was a difficult day for me to be thankful for the kids I have in my classes.
As I was taking attendance, F-Boy and T-Boy jumped out of their seats and began racing around the classroom, ignoring my command to stop. When T-Boy crashed into the wall moments later, grimacing in pain, the “fun” stopped abruptly. (Later in the day, a very contrite F-Boy came back to my room and apologized to me, promising never to cause such a disturbance again.)
C-Girl and J-Boy got into an argument after J-Boy called C-Girl a certain farm animal. C-Girl, outraged by J-Boy’s name-calling, dismissed him with an icy “F**k you!”
Despite their learning contract with me, which includes coming to class with their tools (pencils, paper, books) prepared to learn, at least three students begged to borrow pencils from me.
How can I thank God for the nonsense that interrupts precious instructional time? The truth is, I can’t—and I shouldn’t.
But what would happen if I looked beyond the veneer of nonsense that many of my students present to me, and see the precious human beings beneath? What would happen if I started practicing thankfulness, even if I don’t feel particularly thankful?
How can I thank God enough for you, F-Boy, and for your apology after you disrupted my class?
How can I thank God enough for you, C-Girl, and for your willingness to work even when nobody else in the class wants to?
How can I thank God enough for you, T-Boy, and for your invitation for me to come watch you play basketball?
Advent is not only the season of waiting, but also the season of change. I may not be able to change my students, but I can change the way I think about them by thanking God for them every day.