Fact #1: I’ve spent a majority of the past 72 hours sleeping like a baby.
Fact #2: I had to take half days on Tuesday and Wednesday because of flu-like symptoms and a splitting headache that made it hard to even stand up straight.
Fact #3: Yesterday was my fourth time spending Thanksgiving away from home, and my first time eating Thanksgiving dinner by myself.
I’ve found that it’s much easier to complain than it is to give thanks. It’s easier to shake my head sadly when friends and loved ones ask how TFA is going than it is to focus on the positive and how much I’m learning. It’s easier to whine about how I never have time to eat healthily or go to the gym than it is to be grateful that I have a job and a roof over my head. It’s easier to mope about how far away I am from family and old friends than it is to celebrate the fact that I’ve found an amazing community right here in Providence. I could go on and on, and I often do. But in light of the spirit of the season, and also of the Apostle Paul’s exhortation to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thes 5:18), I’d rather make this post one of gratitude and joy. Besides, who wants to read the rantings of a miserable old teacher anyway? So, here goes nothing:
I’m thankful for countless reminders from students, mentors, colleagues, friends, and family that I’m making a difference. For every encouraging comment from a veteran teacher about how I’m doing a good job; for the emails from my M,TLD praising me for the work that I do on a daily basis; for the real talk from my mom about how it’s foolish not to expect the bad days along with the good; and especially for the notes and texts from students telling me that I’m “d coolest teacher,” thanking me for my hard work, and, this past week, wishing me a speedy recovery (so that I’ll be healthy enough to eat lots of arroz con pollo on Thanksgiving, of course). As my fellow Teach For Us blogger put it, “somehow joy is seeping through.” Despite the overwhelming craziness and impossibly steep learning curve of being a first-year teacher, somehow joy is most definitely seeping through.
I’m thankful for Renaissance and Sacred Journey, the two church communities that I’ve been involved with here in Providence. I’m not sure I’d be where I am now, mentally and spiritually, if it weren’t for the weekly reminders of God’s love for His people and this city in particular, the regular coffee chats and bible studies with pastors at both churches, and the fellowship inside and outside of church with believers in all walks of life. I’m especially thankful for the opportunity to serve on Ren’s worship team and praise God through music and song, and for the worship leader’s willingness to teach me how to “play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts” (Ps 33:3). In retrospect, I guess it was silly of me to be anxious about finding community rather than just trusting in His faithfulness.
I’m thankful for D. It feels strange singling out a particular student among the 120 that I interact with on a daily basis, but I truly am thankful for this kid. D., as you’ll recall, was the student who wrote “I love Jesus” on his survey at the beginning of the year. I’ve since discovered that D. is actually pretty good at math and probably would have done well in the class with or without me, but we’ve nevertheless formed a bond that brings me joy every day. From the random text messages asking me to visit his church and play for his worship team, to the massive bear hugs and head rubs before class, to the “Mr. K is the best” comments whispered under his breath, to the loud and audacious demands that I start a bible study after school, D. is a living reminder (along with the rest of my students) that the victims of the achievement gap are not merely statistics but real human beings and beloved children of God.
I’m thankful, above all, for God’s saving grace. This is not a sentiment that can easily be put into words, so I’ll quote the Apostle Paul from his letter to the Ephesian church instead. (Astute readers will notice that I quoted this passage in the About page as well—it’s such a concise, yet powerful summary of the gospel and its very real implications for anyone and everyone.)
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Anyway, I suppose I should get back to work now, especially considering how far behind I’ve fallen because of my illness, but perhaps there is space for one last thanksgiving. I’m thankful that in less than a month, I’ll be back home in sunny Los Angeles, spending time with my family, and enjoying endless quantities of incredibly delicious, drool-inducing Korean food. om nom nom nom nom.