Thursday, April 14, 2011

Joy and Happiness

Yesterday I was with a group of boys visiting a graduate of my school. The young man we were visiting was in a near-fatal car accident a few days after he graduated (in 2009). Since the accident he has been in a slow process of recovery. He has almost no mobility, cannot talk, but can at least respond to yes/no questions by giving a thumbs up or thumbs down. When someone talks to him and he is interested in what the person says, his eyes focus completely on what is being said. It is clear that, though he may not be able to express it, his mind is working. As a colleague said to me, "When he looked at me, I knew I was looking into the eyes of Jesus."

When we go visit him, we talk to him, tell him school news, and of late, just hang out. Yesterday the time with him was spent playing various Wii sports. The boys took turns playing for him. It is so cool to witness their interaction with him and care for him. So cool.

His father happened to arrive while we were still there and I told him of my plans for next year. As we were leaving, he said he hoped I found happiness in the upcoming year. His tone seemed to indicate that he thinks I am not currently happy. Perhaps I misinterpreted. I told him that I love what I am doing now and that one of the hardest parts about my new adventures will be leaving the boys, particularly the juniors, many of whom I've had in class for 2 years. Again, his reaction led me to believe he thought I said what I said only because I was with boys.

However, it's true. I love what I do on a daily basis. I love talking to boys about justice issues. I love seeing them open their minds and hearts to people or groups of people they may have previously dismissed. I love reading what they write.

When I go with them on service projects, I often see their new sense of appreciation for what they have. I see connections form between kids who didn't previously know each other. I see kids who may not excel in class excel in the labor or, as in the case I describe above, simple presence, they provide. Witnessing these moments bring me incredible joy and happiness, even when I start the day wishing I were elsewhere (which, sadly, sometimes happens).

I continue to assert that high school boys are much more thoughtful than they are given credit for. They just need the chance to practice. While I know I am not always successful, I love trying to give them that chance. When they take that chance, I am filled with joy.

This year and all my years of teaching have brought me happiness, perhaps not in every moment (there have been some difficult ones, to be sure), but overall. It will be with sadness that I leave. I have already shed some tears and know that I'll shed more as the end of the school year approaches. Even when my life is filled with new experiences, I will remember the joy and happiness I found in working with "my" boys.

I am certain that next year there will be many new wonders as I wander the world. My joy will come not because I am leaving here, but rather because what I experience there.

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