When I feel these feelings, I want to gather my small family, and bake banana bread, and run the dishwasher, because the gentle whooshing soothes me. I want to stay inside and numb myself with the Real Housewives of the OC and Candy Crush.
But I don’t do that. I know it won’t help and it won’t work. I can’t make the world safer, so I do the only thing I know how to do.
I pray for peace, and I pray for it to begin with me.
But prayer alone isn’t enough. I take those prayers and turn them into actions. I try to show the 150 or so teenagers I see each day what it looks like to try my hardest at work I believe in and enjoy, what it looks like to open my mind to the beliefs of others, how to live a life of love in a world that tries hard to be otherwise.
What I get back is priceless.
Last month the students in my high school wrote appreciation letters in homeroom. One Friday I found a sheaf of those letters in my mailbox. Teachers might not get much respect from society or adequate salaries, but none of that matters when my students get me.
One student wrote: “I love walking into your 2nd period class every morning and seeing you and your enthusiasm lightens up my day.” Another said: “You treat me as an adult, which always makes my day.” One last sample: “I love the way you treat your students with respect and kindness.”
If the space around me is enthusiastic, respectful, kind, I’ve made the tiny piece of the planet I inhabit the world I want to live in.
At the close of 2015, I am grateful for the students who make me a teacher, for I would not be one without you there to talk and to listen. Thank you to those who graduated in 1997 and 1998 and 1999, for your patience as I was figuring out how to do my craft. Thank you to the hundreds who corrected me, and shaped me and taught me so, so much about myself. Thank you for loving me back as hard as I love each of you.
The world might be terrifying, so, at the start of a new year, I pray for peace, and I pray for it to begin with me. But the world is also full of love and kindness, and I thank you for making it so.