Last year, when school started, it felt as though I had classes of pet rocks.
Image from the Craft train.
They did not talk, laugh or respond easily. The trauma of Covid, of everything, loomed over everything, and made ordinary non urgent conversation almost non existent.
This weekend, I overheard two men working in the grocery store, one at the deli, and the other with the milks. They chatted back and forth about the upcoming football season. The clerks at check out, chatted up the customers about school starting, recipes and children, both grown and growing. Outside, a woman sat cooking hot dogs and sausages, asking people to give to help research children’s cancer, and people pulled out petty cash to put in the jar. We saw children playing at the park, careless about climbing, swinging, all of it. I heard people blasting tunes out of open windows in their cars as they drove by, and saw children biking together, and it felt like a throw back to 2019.
At school, the new class could be described as kinetic, because they talk, they move about, and the caution that marked the prior class, seems to have been abandoned whether or not people wear masks. I kept watching and seeing this energy that can only be described as a joyful enthusiasm –and a communal decision to plunge into living in a way not seen since early 2020. I hear it in the singing at mass too –people are waking from the two year shut down, and weary of being isolated and afraid. It doesn’t mean Covid is over, but it does seem to indicate, society is ready to get on with things.
While this light hearted plunging into life is happening, so also is a return to rigor. Administrative and school wide policies emphasize timeliness and turning in work and not having cell phones out. There’s a demand for more than what has been asked the past two years. I’m not sure how these two trends will merge, as rigor interferes with enjoying the moment if one doesn’t understand that challenges bring with them, joys that cannot be obtained any other way.
Accomplishments like finishing a book, running a marathon, mastering an instrument, creating a community, is never a one shot reality –they have long term consequences to the mind, body, soul, world. Teaching that everything we do has ripple effects, and that the ones that come from struggle yield better consequences, is a hard sell in a yolo instagram twitter world. How we convey the beauty of trying again and again and again and again even when it is frustrating, that is hard to get buy in from those who have known trauma and frustration and the absence of rigor as a relief to the emotional well being of everyone.
Part of why I write every day, even if I do not publish every day, is to discern what I think, what I feel, and to reflect on the reality of what I must do, and how it might be done. The image of “Sunday in the Park with George,” fit nicely.
Photo of A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat
I would love to teach them by painting –by showing how a drawing can be created with only dots, each over time, so that they understand that cumulative, beauty comes from effort even on uninspired days. However, it will have to be with words, with classes, and each day, like a dot of paint on the canvas. We did dot one today, and I admit, I am eager to get to dot seventy so they see why this matters, but we must get through dot two first.
It seems I too must learn patience.