Life is full of see-saws.
Experiences come that range from the traumatic to the ridiculous. One moment we could be laughing at something funny and a little later we may be horrified by an accident on the road. I remember vividly a drive down to Gurgaon for a meeting many years ago with my dear friend Stefan. We were idly chatting, possibly cracking some of our infamous puns; I can’t quite remember now. Suddenly, there was a screech of tyres, and as I turned in the direction of the sound, I caught the glimpse (never to be forgotten) of the body of a person being thrown at least 10 feet up in the air. Stefan who had seen more than I had, said that he had seen the man who was a traffic attendant, trying to stop some children who were on the other side from crossing the freeway. Putting the two scenes together, it seems that the man saved them by almost certainly losing his life. There was no mention of it in the papers the next day. A violent, shocking mundane incident, not warranting anyone’s notice. From pun to pain with no transition to prepare one. See-saw. It cast a pall.
My days have been messy, hunkered down in the trenches of teaching. Trenches of teaching…that’s quite the next post I think. Keep a lookout for that one coming up! Anyway, I’m in the thick of the battle with unhelpful habits, disruptions, distractions, interrupted learning, non-compliances, and the euphoria of seeing unmistakable change, growth, impact, learning and transformation. The situation is perplexing; like a rich crop of golden wheat growing, choking; entangled with weeds. Is it order sown in the midst of chaos, or chaos sown in the midst of order? I’m spending day after day meeting with students, trying to understand them, trying to motivate them, get them to consider change, develop a taste for order; trying to give them a vision of something much greater…often with seemingly little success. And then others to whom I speak one word of appreciation or encouragement, and they light up, suffused with pleasure, and try so very hard, it brings tears to my eyes. See-saw. Days when you’re not quite sure whether you got it right or wrong.
At home, Dad astonishes us by his appetite. The man who, for the last several years, had been eating less and less food, coming down to being finicky about eating more than one chapati in a day, with a handful of rice that would fit in the palm of my hand, is now eating at the least, 6 chapatis, and about half a plateful of rice that a normal man would eat, along with vegetables and other things that I cook. The beauty is he has no idea of how much he’s eating since it’s all blended. Again I’m grateful to God who has so graciously heard prayer for my dad and turned things around for us as a family. A slow see from a saw! The breaking of dawn from the see-saw of day and night.
Yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised and encouraged to hear many affirmations from the Bridges Grade 8 students who saw change happening in the class, which being in the trenches, I couldn’t see! And conversations with Dan and Dilip, friends and brothers, with their encouragement, quiet suggestions and perspectives, have been important reference points in this building and ploughing work in people’s lives. And then my other friend and colleague Raj, shared a video with me about how the reintroduction of wolves (which are primary predators) caused the rejuvenation and revival of Yellowstone National Park. You can watch the video below.
Raj showed me an allegory of how what is often considered negative is an important agent of growth and transformation, with the context of how God uses such people and events to shape us and others. The video and the conversations all fitted together, as I began to realize that see-sawing does not mean that change is not happening, or even that growth is not happening. It’s a bit like a tug o’ war that we’re in trying to move ourselves, people and situations into a better place. There is always opposition when we go for things that please God.
I have the most wonderful opportunity now to continue to work on my own dreams as a teacher, personality, style and character, and the shadow of hope continues to be cast by students and situations that I’m involved with. The fields are ripe for harvest, but labourers are few who are faithful. None of us are a mistake or in any situation by coincidence. The cultivation of hope often see-saws, and teachers, parents, pastors, social workers and doctors know this truth very, very well.
He shall walk, and walk and weep, bearing the handful of seed; he shall come and come with singing, bearing his sheaves… Psalm 126:6
This is the promise of God, that it isn’t labour in vain or futility. We may well be the only person in someone’s life who is holding out hope to them.