This week I visited my former workplace and saw many former students. It was a bit emotional because not only do I miss teaching, I was unable to be there when tragedy claimed many of their homes. My former classroom is almost completely gutted. I really enjoyed my visit, especially seeing the kids. I think it was only going back that made me realize how far I had come as a teacher and a person those three years. The small community is sleepy and quiet but runs deep in compassion, selflessness and service. As I drove down into the flood ravaged valley for the first time I saw a spray painted sign at the end of a driveway that read, “Good things happen here.” A little farther down the road there sits a mud smeared farmhouse (the residents lost everything and all their dairy cows as well). On the porch a lighted nativity scene nestled in hay is a reminder to the community that the joy of Christmas comes even in the midst of tragedy.
Eli and I visited the kids I had taught in past. One conversation went like this:
Student #1: “He (Eli) looks like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.”
Student #2: “Yeah, except for he’s not a turtle and he’s not green.”
Student #1: “Then maybe a green goblin.”
Student #2: “Yeah.”
I also attended the Christmas concert that night. Yes, they still call it a Christmas concert. Like always, the whole community turns out for the concert, whether they have kids or not. They seemed unfazed by the news cameras that showed up.
Anyway, I’m not trying to say that there is anything perfect about this community. But they got it right this time. I’m sure there is a fair amount of complaining and capitalizing on tragedy. The good far outweighs the bad though. I’m not going to try and moralize anything here, except to say that it was good for my heart.