Before anyone reads this, I want to apologize. I am so busy at work and church and am behind on reading and commenting on your blogs, answering emails and so forth. Hopefully that will end fairly soon.
I am writing this post while sitting outside at my school. It’s seven-o-clock in the evening and probably about 65 degrees. The light is gentle now, not bright or hot. I can see trees blossoming white and purple. They are accompanied by squirrels chattering and birds singing. The air is a calmly invigorating potpourri of green, growing things, early flowers, with just a dash of something being cooked on a barbecue grill.
It is beautiful and my soul is singing to be in such a beautiful place. My soul is also singing because of what I’m doing. It’s one of my favorite moments and tasks of the entire year.
Every year, we have an awards night for the graduating 8th graders who have participated in our theatre program. We have food and a slideshow and then the awards. Initially, my plan was to imitate the Tonys or the Oscars and have various categories: Best leading actress, Best actor in a musical and so on.
But then I got a much better idea. Instead, I write a letter about each student. I detail the roles they have played and then talk about the contributions they have each made. Then, based on those contributions, I craft an award. That may sound cheesy, sort of a lame, “everyone is a winner” kind of cop-out, but it’s really not. It’s grounded in reality, and I don’t say anything that’s not true. Every year, I worry I won’t be able to think of enough nice things to say. But every year when I start looking at the good things these kids have done, I have more material than I can possibly use.
It feels good—very good—to be looking so explicitly at the positive traits and contributions of my students. Teaching and directing are, of necessity, often focused on giving corrective feedback. There are plenty of flaws to note and discuss. But so much good as well.
Is it really all that different for any of us? We’re just large 8th graders, after all, trying to navigate our way through a complex word. Sometimes we do it with grace, sometimes with acute awkwardness.
I’m so grateful for the times people look at me and choose to look up from the very obvious and very present mélange of weaknesses, flaws, and quirks. They are all there, undoubtedly and obtrusively. More subtle, but also present, I hope, are the strengths, virtues, and good intentions. Probably more of the intentions than the strengths. But I am so grateful when people have the grace to focus on the latter in favor of the former. And I am really trying hard to do the same.
In addition to the Bible, one of the sacred texts in my faith is The Book of Mormon. And one of my favorite verses in that book is part of a conversation in which God speaks to a regular mortal and says,: “Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done….” (Helaman 10:4). I love this focus on the postive. Not on the flaws or what was left undone—and surely there were many possibilities—but an emphasis on the good and the positive.
I hope to remember that this is the way to have a singing soul instead of being out of tune.
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