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The Resonance of Teaching

Resonance - artist Kathy Tidman
I'm pretty sure all of us can name one teacher who changed our lives. Perhaps it was a Sunday School teacher, or your 10th grade science teacher or even your piano teacher. Whatever it was, they were the person in the right place at the right time with the right message for your life.

Unless you've been a teacher, you wouldn't know that the opposite is also true. One's students leave indelible marks on the soul of a teacher.  Perhaps this is more true of a religion teacher, as we deal with life and death issues. And while our 15 year old students often stare at us blankly when we mention Purgatory or frankly disbelieve us when we talk about mortal sin, they still listen and absorb and think and ruminate.

I haven't been in a classroom in a few years, but many of my students remain a part of my life, even in a small way. I'm sure they still roll their eyes when I tell them I pray for them, but I do. And I pray harder for some then others. I hope that whatever truths I taught them, however feeble my attempts, stay with them. I hope those truths resonate, pondered for many years to come.

I lost a student yesterday. She lost her battle with addiction. Addiction is such a huge monster, and she was such a small lady. She had the white-blond hair of a toddler and a slightly sideways smile. Like most addicts, she was a sensitive soul. While she certainly had a reputation for being "wild," I only ever saw her as tame. She mostly stayed in the back of my classroom, likely counting the minutes until class was done.

In the last few years, she'd been realizing dreams: a baby boy, a new job, a car. She seemed really happy, in a way she'd never been in her teen years. But the addiction that chased her, caught her.

While I pray that what I taught those young people in a drafty classroom stays with them, perhaps it is important that they know their lives resonate with me. They made me laugh, they reminded me of their hurts and sorrows, and that some areas of our faith were just too hard to understand. I marveled at their stupidity and their strength. I saw courage in their eyes. They taught me that sorrow and regret are not just for the old.

I pray that this sweet young woman who carried tremendous burdens on her thin shoulders is now at peace. Peace, dear girl. May it be yours unto eternity.

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