Saturday, March 20, 2010

Baby Chicks and Spring Break

Double the blessings?  Double the trouble?  My friend, K. had her twin girls about two months ago and finally has both little dolls under her roof together after they spent weeks at the NICU. While I know that she and her husband are thrilled with finally having both girls at home, the uncertainties of parenting are only beginning for them.

I remember those earliest days of being a parent and how many questions I had.  There is that common joke about how kids don't come with an owner's manual, but there were seriously times when I wish they did!  Recently, one of the dashboard lights came on in our car, and though Chad and I were pretty certain we knew why it had lit up, we were able to take out the Saturn book, look it up and confirm our original assumptions.  Not so easy with a child who has a low-grade fever, or is rubbing his ear a lot or whose appetite has waned.  Before we'd call the doctor with a concern, we had already spent hours determining when the phone call would be made -- "Okay, if the fever doesn't come down in the next two hours, we'll call."  Situations are no more black and white as children get older.  We have to determine when they are old enough to attend a birthday party without us being present, how much to fight over homework, how many cookies are enough...the list does not end and the answers are rarely clear.  It is almost a relief when you can say "Yes, an apple would be a great snack for you!" or, "No, do not run out on front of the moving cars!"

The gray areas are the most challenging types of discussions I have with my students, as well, but they are also the most rewarding.  This week I have spent time with a number of students who are experiencing incredible anxiety about college.  These are not students anxious about getting in to college; these are students already accepted at a  number of schools, who, nevertheless, are still plagued with stress.  Some do not know which school they should attend; they are being pulled in various directions by friends, family, desires to experience a new life, but fears of leaving their old one behind. Other students are worried about maintaining a level of academic performance in order to avoid having their offers of admission rescinded.  I know these young people come to me hoping I can tell them THE answer -- this is the school for you or yes, you will still get to attend your college even if you get a D in this course.  But, I can't.  I cannot guarantee them anything, any more than I could guarantee my own children that they would make friends in kindergarten or that their teachers would like them.  Just like the mother of a newborn who is crying, these kids want the reassurance that everything will turn out well as long as they complete steps A, B and C.  We often want a black-and-white, right-or-wrong, yes-or-no world, but every moment has shades of gray.

Ironically, I find that the clouds offer us the greatest opportunities for beauty.  My sons' elementary school's motto is "We solve problems with our heads and our hearts."  Shouldn't we all solve our problems this way?  We need to act out of compassion and love and allow our ability to reason help us to determine choices with which we can live.  As I guided the students who sought me out this week, I told each of them to try and make a decision that they knew in their hearts they would be fine with, regardless of the outcome. We often want to make the right decision, but I don't know if those exist.  Instead, perhaps we could try to make the decisions that let us breath with more ease and help us to face future days with less anxiety and trepidation. 
Of course, we do not wish for problems, but we know they are inevitable.  And without them, we wouldn't know what it feels like to use our hearts and minds in collaboration to find hope, a source of light, in even the foggiest of circumstances.  Spring Break would not be as invigorating if it did not follow the hibernating winter, but because it does, we can actually find peace in both.  It is the grayness of the world that inspires me to fill it with love.

(Although we would probably pick a warm day at a SoCal beach over gloomy skies and parkas anytime! Thanks Alex and Marie for a pic that should make people smile.)

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Boy Lost

Lucas: This equipment doesn't fit.
Coach: No, it's you that don't fit.

Yesterday, when I opened AOL and the first news story was the death of Corey Haim, I gasped. My students had just started to enter the classroom and they, of course, looked at me with concern.  Even though I was fairly certain what their response would be, I said, "I just found out that Corey Haim died."  As I expected, "Corey Haim?  Who's that?"  My freshmen were born in 1996, after I had already graduated from college and well after the years when Corey Haim was my biggest crush.  In those pre-teen days, the crushes were many, but Corey Haim was the only celebrity I ever sent a fan letter to and when I got back a reply, with a signature that was in ink and not photocopied, I was sure that Corey had read my letter, been touched by it and somehow through the magic of the post office, we were now a part of each other's lives.

This week, my seniors wrote a response to the question, what is a life worth?  We have been discussing how human lives are valued -- the different qualities that have been lauded and loathed in previous eras and the current estimation of what makes a life one of value.  The response varied widely, from those who had definite and unshakable determinants of what makes one life more worthy than another to those who felt that placing value on a life was impossible, and even disgusting, because all human lives should be valued equally.  As the students wrote, I considered how I would respond to this sort of writing exercise. 

Tonight, I would like to offer this: A life is worth another life.

My freshmen are wrapping up A Tale of Two Cities right now and we have been discussing the redemption of Sydney Carton who offers himself up in Charles Darnay's place for execution so that the woman Carton loves, Lucie, can be with the man she loves, Darnay.  Carton lives a rather sordid and sometimes despicable life until he meets Lucie.  The goodness that she exudes helps him to be a better man and he tells Lucie to "think now and then that there is a man who would give his life, to keep a life you love beside you."

As a wife and a mother, I know this kind of love.  Each of my boys and my husband know that there is a woman who would give up her life to give them a life they love.  Until my sons are old enough to make this type of statement for themselves, their lives have worth because of my willingness to sacrifice for them.  At some point, their lives will have a renewed worth when they are willing to do this for someone they love. I pray that what I give to them, they will share with another.

As I think about Corey Haim, or any child celebrity Hollywood pretends to mother, but instead offers up on the altar of fame and fortune, I wonder if he had anyone in his life who he would have given his own life for -- if he had ever been shown the kind of unconditional, agape love that inspires one to be willing to put his own wants, desires, compulsions and addictions aside.  If he had, perhaps he would have met a different fate.  Now, he will always be a boy lost.