It had been a rough week. With the end of the school year looming, tension runs high and patience, too often, runs low. In our household, we were feeling the extra pressure that Peter has at this stage in the game, when one of his least favorite parts of work (running sound for performances) is amped up with occasions such as graduation to plan and orchestrate. My own library end-of-year demands are a bit less public, so my personal stress in this period tends to revolve more around a wifely-worrying mindset. I find myself torn between the desire to care for my husband’s needs and a tendency I have unfortunately discovered in my married self: an inclination to sulk when his personal state of mind makes him less attentive to my own needs!
But back to this week: specifically, to secondary chapel. Peter was at his customary post in the back, behind the sound desk. Towards the end of the chapel talk, I came over next to him to see if his water cup needed refilling. At this point, a closing prayer was announced. As heads were bowed and eyes closed, I had the urge to rub his shoulders. Beginning what I thought would be a quick rub, I then realized that this was going to be an extended period of prayer time. I decided then to take the opportunity to sneak in a good massage for him, while others were occupied with more spiritual matters, and he was stuck at his post but not needing to do anything particularly demanding for the duration of the prayer. I got into it, launching into full official massage technique mode, getting onto my tiptoes for better leverage as I kneaded and pounded. Looking up, I realized that one of the students had turned around and was watching me. She didn’t have any particularly noteworthy reaction, so far as I could tell, but is a student I get along well with; so I looked her in the eyes and nodded my head in acknowledgement of her presence. She nodded back and then, a moment later, turned back around in her seat. Should I feel guilty right now? I then wondered. Am I being a bad example while others are dutifully folding their hands and bowing their heads? Should I . . . ?
I don’t know if I should or not but, truthfully, I did not. And I still do not. Unspiritual as it may be, I cannot help but suspect that this back rub was, in itself, a prayer.

go . . . and grow

May 13, 2018

As school ended on Friday afternoon, I was running around to talk to parents and kids about overdue books and, coming back to make a beeline for the bookshelf, on a missing book “scavenger hunt,” I looked up to see a student waiting by my desk. One of my most considerate teens, she was hesitant, fidgeting a bit before asking, “Um, are you busy right now . . . could I maybe talk to you for a minute?” I teased her a bit, “Ooh, sounds so serious!,” but instantly regretted it when I saw the expression on her face. She was clearly agitated. I sat down and waited for her to begin. “Um, Miss A said I should ask you about my transcript . . .” She sighed then and blurted out that she had just found out she would not be eligible for valedictorian because of her online class not being on schedule. My heart sank when I realized that, in this case, I had no good news for her. My hands were tied by the credit requirements of the school, and in this case there was no way to get around the fact that her slow pace for this online course would keep her from having the necessary marks for an award. Her grades were excellent, but she had been pouring so much time into the work that there was no way for it to be done in time for graduation.
She started to cry and, between sniffles, said, “I’ve been wanting this for so long.” Hugging her, I looked her in the eyes and said, “I know. I’m so sorry . . . but it’s not your fault. You know that, right? You did the best you could.”
“But it wasn’t good enough!” she blurted out, with a twinge of anger.
In that moment, I realized that I was going to need to tell her what I had spent the day telling myself.
“Yes, it was!” I began. “It WAS good enough! Sometimes you can do everything right but not get what you think you need. And, sometimes, what you think you need is not really what you need . . . only the hard part is that it can take years to learn what you really needed instead. And you’re gonna have this happen again, I’m afraid. I know. I’m old now, and it still happens to me!”
She smiled at this and started to try to tell me I wasn’t old. I interrupted her to continue.
“Truthfully, it happened to me just yesterday. I spent much of today in a dark funk of disappointment because someone told me that I couldn’t have what I’d been wanting. I thought I knew what I needed but know now that if a door closes that means it wasn’t the best after all. There’s something better, and I just can’t see that yet.”
She started to cry again, and told me that, unusually, considering her habit of staying late for extra study sessions and after-school activities, she was actually going home today.
“Good,” I said. “Now go do something fun. Go play.”
She smiled. “I’ll try,” she said, giving me another hug before lifting her backpack over her shoulder and walking out.
Yes, I said to myself. Like I said . . . like, go pick one of those flowers your husband has magically made grow for you, against all odds—put a bloom on the table for no other reason than to smile at its beauty.