Last Tuesday our school had a Christmas dinner. It was the first time since I’ve been there that everyone was all together in one place. The cleaning ladies, the women who work in the kitchen, the teachers, the maintenance staff (which is just one super cool guy named Ramon who reminds me of my dad), the security team, the assistants, the office staff, and the administration. And their families. It was well over 100 people. And it was beautiful.
Every day I go into my little classroom and I am basically alone with 18 kids for three hours, then I get another set of 18 kids for two hours, then I get the original ones for another hour, and then I go home. Despite the fact that I’m shoved in a room about the size of my (very modest) living room with 18 other humans (it’s very rare for me to be not touching someone or something at any given moment throughout the day) I can feel very… alone in my job. Not in any kind of lonely way, but in a very independent-I-totally-got-this kind of way. I do my lesson planning. I gather my materials. I get the kids in line. I make sure they have their folders. I write daily newsletters to parents. I tie shoes and button pants. This is totally not a look-what-I-can-do thing, I’m just doing my job but it’s me doing my job pretty much by myself very day.
Except it’s not. Because whoever is on morning duty is watching my students from the second they arrive on campus and the blessed assistants and my heavenly teaching partner are making sure the kids don’t kill each other during recess and Domingo and Kathy spend their entire day handing demanding kids packets of crackers and cups of juice because they are angels sent from above to work in the snack shop. The administration is doing 100 million things I never even see and the secretary is making 100 million copies and intercepting communication from parents and collecting the attendance folders. German (who is the cutest little guy you’ve ever seen – especially on rainy days when he is dressed from head to toe in a yellow rain slicker) spends 12 hours a day at the school’s gate, opening it and closing it and inquiring and locking and unlocking.
This time of the year there is a great abundance of giant moths everywhere. Last week on two separate occasions a giant moth flew into our classroom and right into the ceiling fan. Neither moth died, but neither moth was able to fly back out again. It was tragic! The first time the ceiling fan cleanly cut off one of the moth’s wings and the giant moth (7 inch wingspan) was just flopping around on the floor making us all nervous. So I emptied the basket where we keep our pencil sharpeners and put it over the moth. Then when the kids were out at recess I asked Ramon (the one man maintenance team who surely had better things to do) to get it out of my classroom. And he so did.
The thing is, it’s so easy to put my head down and focus on my classroom and my kids and do my job and completely forget that if I really were alone I would completely fall on my face.
Last Sunday I had the privilege to sing in our church’s Christmas program as part of the choir. I love singing in a choir. Mostly because I love to sing but do not have a voice for solos. I can, however, sing a given note, so to the choir it is! I have been singing in choirs my whole life and it never gets old. I love being a part of something bigger than myself. I love hearing a beautiful song knowing my voice is in there somewhere. I love how choirs are pictures of life and how we need each other. I love how at the same time choirs are reminders of personal responsibility and the blessings of diversity.
The nice thing about a choir is that the success of the song doesn’t depend entirely on me, or any other one person. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t matter. If I never show up for practice and I don’t know the words or my part and then I try to sing along, my mistakes are going to stick out. If I just stop singing half way through a song, that song will be missing something it would otherwise have. Whether or not the Christmas program happened wasn’t dependent entirely on me as a choir member, but my part was still important and made the show that much more beautiful. See what I’m saying?
God’s great, big plan of love and redemption doesn’t depend entirely on me. Or you. Or any one person. But if we don’t show up and learn our part, something awesome will be missing.
We need Christmas programs and Christmas dinners. Not just because there’s something magical about Christmas music and dinner is one of the best things around, but because these things, and I hope this season, causes up to pick our head up from our little lives and look around. When I look around I am reminded that a job is more than a job, a school is more than a school, a song is more than a song, a baby in a manger is more than a baby. When I look around I remember that I am in no way in any of this alone, nor am I ultimately in charge (gracias a Dios).