When you work with teenagers, you serve as a daily witness to a thousand triumphs and tribulations. The worst parts of my job are watching the things I remember hating about middle school reenacted before my eyes. The best parts involve seeing the students, really seeing them, and letting them know that they are seen. They eat lunch standing around my desk, they argue about book characters, they ask for help on application essays, they proudly hand over their report cards. They tell me great and terrible things that make my heart break with the joy and sorrow of it all.
They do not, of course, see me. This is the way of teenagers, and I like listening to their confidences. I am surprised when they think to ask me a question about myself. I like when they forget themselves and say more than they should, eyes sliding over to see if I noticed.
At work, the week before spring break did not feel like a Holy Week. The building simmered with fatigue and stress and lack of air conditioning. The earthly calendar was not reflecting the heavenly one.
The church calendar grounds me in a sense of collective memory and reflection. I feel that grounding here at the end of Holy Week. Our church’s Maundy Thursday service was focused on symbolic reminders of the last days of Jesus’ life. It ended with communion, an echo of the meal Jesus shared with his friends. Do this in remembrance of me.
This week what is saving my life is a story I can’t tell you. I look hard for the redemption, but I am not allowed to testify to the miracles that I see. There are privacy issues, and, anyway, they are not my stories to tell. My part is boring: editing essays, giving advice, listening. Praying and waiting. They are the ones who are taking steps into the future. I am just the old lady who cries at the wonder of it all, because sometimes it works out exactly like it should.
It feels like a sacred job, to remember another human being. Whether it is remembering someone who has died, holding someone in your heart, or being reminded of someone’s humanity. It is enough to say that the gift of my students, being allowed to carry their stories in my heart, is saving my life this week. Especially on this Good Friday, a day when we are reminded how holy it is to remember.
What is saving your life this week?