Thursday, August 29, 2013

this morning

I thought of Mr. Grasso this morning.  My fifth-grade teacher, he had a simple rule.  If one could finish their classroom work, you could raise your hand and ask permission to go to the library.  This wasn't a rule for me, it was a gateway!  Zipping through math, filling out the blanks on the social studies sheet, answering the science questions, I would raise my hand, ready to enter that marvelous realm filled with books.  I got done so quickly, and waved my hand so often, that finally Mr. Grasso took me aside and said, 'Look, when you are done with your work, simply get up quietly and go to the library.'

I thought of Mrs. Bledsoe this morning.  In tenth grade English, she challenged me to expand my vocabulary, to step up and read authors who challenged me, to not just read the words on a page, but to think about them, to wonder about them, to reflect on why a particular phrase was chosen over another, why one word was used instead of its synonym, why the author created that particular character.  She guided me to a deeper appreciation of words, of their power, and of their influence.

I thought of Ms. Mozingo and Mr. Leverette this morning.  My social studies teachers in high school, they encouraged me to see that history was more than just dusty accounts of a past that had no part of my life.  They helped me to begin to understand that what happened hundreds of years ago still affected the world today, that what was spoken at a cemetery dedication during a war contained timeless words, that people who had gone before me had passed on their hopes and their dreams, that they might be fulfilled in my generation.

I thought of all these folks, and many more, this morning.

I was out on my morning walk, and just before 7:00 a.m., the car passed me, as it usually does this time of year.  A teacher heading to the primary school just a couple of blocks from our house.  She was arriving more than two hours before any student would walk through the doors.  She got there that early each day so she would be ready - to challenge, to encourage, to prod, to teach.  She would work with kids with different abilities and skills, with different dreams and hopes.  And when the kids left for the day, she would still be there.  As she straightens up the room and works the kinks out of her back, she will think of her kids - the ones who struggle and the ones who are ready to go further; the ones who go to a home where they will get all sorts of help with homework, and the ones who will struggle alone at the kitchen table; the ones who will cry themselves to sleep this night, and the ones who will be taught to be bullies like their parent.  And she will be back tomorrow, to fulfill her calling to teach, to care, to model, to help, to hope.

I thought of teachers this morning, and as I thought, I gave thanks to God for each and every one of them.

© 2013 Thom M. Shuman

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


I stopped in the preschool classroom yesterday to say good-bye to the half dozen or so kids who would be leaving our program to begin kindergarten this year.  I have been reading to them for the last couple of years, every Thursday morning when there was no conflict (and I always tried to make sure there wasn't!), and have enjoyed their questions, their eagerness, their energy, their delight in the stories.  As they gathered around me to give me a hug, they chattered excitedly about starting kindergarten, but if you looked closely, there was that look in their eyes that said, 'please, tell me it is going to be okay.'

We all have experienced that sort of feeling, haven't we?  The first time we let go of our parent's hand to get on the school bus; moving into our office at the new job, and after putting everything in the desk drawer and on the shelves, looking around and wondering, 'okay, now what?'  That first date; that march down the aisle; hugging everyone at graduation, wondering if we really would stay in touch over the years; standing by the graveside saying good bye to that person who had been our rock, our best friend in the whole world.

I remember leaving for college.  Packing everything in the footlocker, getting my ticket, climbing on the bus for the trip down to the school.  I couldn't wait to get out of my hometown, to begin this new adventure, to finally be out on my own.  But as the miles rolled by under my seat on the bus, as we drew closer and closer, the acid begin to churn in my stomach, my head began to ache, the doubts tightened the muscles in my shoulders, the jitters began their little dance in my soul.

So as I think about my little friends heading off to kindergarten, as I think of the high schoolers whose first classes at the university start this week, for those who might be starting a new position or moving into retirement, for the person going out on a first date this weekend, for everyone who is dealing with uncertainty, with questions, with jitters in their life, I hope they discover the same truth I have over all these years, the truth the psalmist for today affirms that God will be our guide, our companion, forever!

(c) 2013  Thom M. Shuman