Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Heart of a Teacher

Man, my heart is so heavy today.  If you aren't already familiar with this, a major F5 tornado hit in Moore, Oklahoma last night leaving a path of destruction over 30 miles long.  The "debris ball" was over 2 miles wide.  It developed in under an hour...people had just enough time (in most cases) to shelter in place.  Some were lucky enough to make it to storm shelters.  Places I've driven by and visited for years are leveled.  There is nothing left but mud.  Reporters were scanning the landscape unable to get their bearings because things that used to be there were no longer there.  Homes were crushed, cars tossed like toys, two elementary schools were leveled...

That is the part that makes me the saddest.  Thankfully one of the schools had everyone accounted for fairly shortly after the storm was gone.  There were injuries, yes, but no loss of life.  The other school was not so lucky.  Plaza Towers Elementary school had sheltered in place.  Kids were brought into the hallways (which is just about the safest place to be).  They were told to hang onto the walls.  Teachers were diving on top of piles of students to keep them safe.  Most got out alive with only some minor injuries.  But the 3rd grade wing was not so lucky.  As they started moving the rubble, they found children drowned, crushed...just gone.  They found a teacher who had thrown herself on top of 3 students to protect them...they found this teacher and the 3 students underneath a car which had been pitched into the front of the school.  A father was interviewed who had helped move that car.  His comment, before he broke down, was "Way to go Teach!"  Words like heroic, valiant, self-sacrificing were being tossed around about these teachers and their courage.  Men and women who literally sacrificed their lives for these students.  For them, it was just instinct...

A teacher's heart is such that when a child comes into your "fold", they become yours.  Even the ones who drive you crazy.  The whiney ones, the punks, the trouble-makers, the ones who are hard to love.  They're all yours.  When I think about these teachers all over Oklahoma who were determined to keep their babies safe, I can't help but think back on my experience as a teacher.  When I see the faces of these beautiful children who are no longer with us, I can't help but picture my own sweet students.  And it brings tears to my eyes.  In a heartbeat I would have sacrificed myself to keep them safe.  It's an instinct.  As it was for those teachers yesterday.  Of course their reactionary response was to throw themselves on top of their kids to keep them safe.  Of course it was.  Because when those babies become yours, they really are yours.  At least for a time.

I hate picturing what a horrific experience that must have been for everyone involved.  And I have to echo what that guy said... Way to go, Teach!  Nothing short of heroism, valiance, sacrifice, and courage is required of teachers.  And we so freely give it.  Because each and every student we teach has a piece of our hearts.  Though I don't have any sweet babies of my own yet, I do feel like I've learned at least a sliver of that parental love through my experience in teaching.  Those babies (though some of them aren't so much babies anymore) are mine.  They're tattooed on my heart!  So my heart goes out to those families and those teachers in Moore, Oklahoma today.  My insides hurt to think about this tragedy.  But parents, thank your kids' teachers today.  Because chances are, if your own babies were in the same situation, you can bet their teachers would react the same way that these heroes did.  Because at some point in teaching, it becomes less about you and more about those sweet souls who have become yours...

My deepest and most heartfelt sentiments go out to the people of Oklahoma.  May you find a peace that passes all understanding and may you find refuge in the strength and promises of our Lord.  

There's nothin' like Oklahoma...

Thursday, May 16, 2013

What I've Grown to Appreciate

Yes, I know.  It's been WAY too long since I last wrote.  If you know me, you're probably not surprised at all to know that I've double and triple booked myself a lot in the past few weeks.  I'm either a glutton for punishment or a hopeless "Yes" woman.  Or maybe both.  I like to think of it as "sacrificial"...because some days I feel like my time, energy, and sometimes even my space is not my own.  But I do so love being helpful and sharing what I have with others.  I wouldn't be me if I didn't always volunteer myself for the tough jobs.  It's part of my DNA I think!

In light of the fact that Jonathan and I have officially been living in the Caribbean for over 10 months now, I've been sort of contemplating the ways in which he and I both have grown.  Reflecting on what we've gained from living here (other than the obvious eventual M.D.).  Not so much in the "1st world problems vs. 3rd world problems" realm (though that would probably be a good post too...), but more along the lines of the ways we've seen growth in our own lives.  So here's a good chunk of my list:

- Being Accepting - He and I have talked a lot lately about how important it is around here to build and maintain good relationships.  It's sort of a "pressure cooker" environment around here when it comes to friendships and relationships.  Which is not necessarily a bad thing, it just makes the situations surrounding growing friendships a bit different.  But we've learned to accept peoples' differences and embrace them.  Your "fold of friends" doesn't always have to have the same political views, religious affiliations, or even hobbies as you.  For us it's always been and continues to be important that we have a diverse group of friends from all walks of life.  It definitely keeps things interesting!  Here in the Caribbean, we've sort of been forced to step out of our comfort zone in this and I have to say we've been so richly blessed because of it!

- Patience - Yes, God has definitely been teaching us the patience lesson since we've been here.  I never really appreciated how you can be in and out of a restaurant in the states in under half an hour if you need to.  You never have to worry about the internet going out, the power going down, the water turning brown.  You don't have to walk uphill in blazing heat or pouring rain to get home.  You don't have to seal up every morsel of food (even while you're still eating it!) to keep the army of sugar ants from claiming it for themselves.  But interestingly enough, Jonathan and I are fairly certain that when our paradigm has to shift once again when we move back to the states in a year, we are going to have some serious culture shock!  It will only take us 10 minutes to run to the grocery store for milk (which will ALWAYS be there), we can keep our AC on in our house all the time, when we eat at a restaurant EVERYTHING that's on the menu will actually be available, and our iPhones will work (internet and all) EVERYWHERE!   Interestingly enough, though, we don't often find ourselves "longing" for those things down here.  It's just life...you roll with it!  I definitely feel like I'm learning to live with much less than what I thought I could.  And I'm no worse off without all of it honestly!

- Beauty - We live in one of the most gorgeous places in the world.  As a matter of fact, while I sit here writing this I hear waves crashing on the shore, I hear birds chirping, I see islands in the distance, I smell passion fruit juice, and I feel an amazing ocean breeze (even if it IS 100 degrees outside).  I've seen waterfalls that would literally take your breath away.  I've seen flowers growing in the wild that people in the states would pay a pretty penny to have a florist arrange.  I can swim in the Caribbean Ocean every single day of my life if I want to.  The locals here always speak so fondly of the beauty of this island.  You'll see them sitting at the picnic tables here just enjoying the sunshine and the ocean breeze.  They'll shimmy right up a mango tree for a snack when they want to!  So I can't miss out on all this gorgeous place has to offer by being fed up with slow customer service, less than reliable water sources, or the constant sweat and dirt on my skin.  If I got caught up in all that, I would miss so much and NOT be better for having lived here in Dominica for a time in my life...

- Time - If you know me and Jonathan, you know if we had it our way we would be attached at the hip all the time.  He's my very best friend, my partner in crime, my confidant, my safe place.  We laugh so much when we are together.  It's just so soothing to be around him.  But here in med school, we've had to shift quite a bit by way of time spent together.  He's so very purposeful in this which is a HUGE blessing for me, but it's still not nearly as much time as both of us would prefer if it were up to us.  So we've learned that when we have the time to spend with each other, we are purposeful in how we spend it too.  We try really hard to not give each other the "leftovers" of our day (i.e.-crankiness because the prep school kids were irritating, snappiness because your plans for the day were thwarted, etc.).  We make it a point to give each other the best of what we've got for the time we have to spend together.  We talk and laugh and play, and even though I miss him often during the day, I really don't feel like I'm missing out on Jonathan.  As we continue this journey of becoming a doctor, I know this will change and evolve over the years.  But I know that both of us have learned to value time spent together even more than we did before, and for that reason I know that purposeful way that we love each other is not going to change even when things change in his career.

There are so many other things we've learned while living here.  Yes, it's a 3rd world country, so there are plenty of "3rd world problems" (that's what the "Only in Dominica" posts are for!).  But this experience has definitely been somewhat of a "refining fire" for us.  And when the glorious day comes that we get to return to the states for good, I'm sure we will always carry this with us.  We're better people for it!

Accept Differences
Be Patient
Respect Beauty
Be Purposeful in How You Love Each Other

A Different Kind of Flair