On Friday night I went to a big basketball game in the Caldwell gym. I’d forgotten how those things go to the core of me—the rumble of the crowd and its rising yells, the sharpness of the whistle and the basketball shoes squeaking on the floor, the smell of popcorn and heat and the hundreds of faces and the youth and intensity of it all and the sound of the buzzer. But most, I am taken by those kids on the court who struggle and slouch in my class, but who spring and leap and even fly with a ball in their hands. I’d forgotten how moved I am watching my students do what matters to them. I like to see them capable and eager and playing confidently to a packed house—it’s fuller than the version of them I usually get. I like being reminded. (I also like it when we win, which we did.)
Then yesterday afternoon I went to Walmart, which is notorious as place where one can observe a subset of humans who seem unable to fit into their clothes, read a price sticker, wash themselves, or exist appropriately within the world (or so that blog that used to circulate, “The People of Walmart,” would have us believe.) But as I navigated past little befuddled-looking family clumps in the home goods aisles on my way to buy curtain rods, we spoke gently and politely to one another, squeezing our carts through, despite the blasphemy of our ill-fitting sweats and unkempt hair. And I thought to myself—”We’re all the people of Walmart on the inside, aren’t we?” I mostly thought it because it made me laugh, but it’s softened my vision ever since.
And then last night I went to the homecoming dance for a bit. I pinned my hair up like I used to do in college and wore my charity shop coat. We ended up having to turn off nearly all the lights to get the kids to actually dance, because with them on they just milled awkwardly in groups. But in the dimness, they finally loosened up and cheered and jumped and acted like teenagers. We threw glow sticks down on them during “Party Rock,” and they lost their minds as we intended. I got out there and danced a little with a few of the other teachers. I felt full. I turned to Leslie at one point and said, “You know, in high school, I would have been glued to a chair at something like this.” A student cheekily asked me earlier in the week if everything good happens before you’re twenty-five, but I’ve rarely been more glad to be thirty and not sixteen. If only they knew.
I’m grateful that things are not always as they seem they ought to be, grateful that I am frequently wrong, grateful that God comes riding in on his donkey with his bruisable body and his broken bread and his empty tomb and says, “No, actually, child, it’s entirely different than that.”