“Gratitude begins in our hearts and then dovetails into behavior. It almost always makes you willing to be of service, which is where the joy resides. It means that you are willing to stop being such a jerk. When you are aware of all that has been given to you, in your lifetime and the past few days, it is hard not to be humbled, and pleased to give back.”Anne Lamott, Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers
The second prayer is “Thanks.”
Not even “Thank you.” Sometimes that seems loaded. Who is this ‘you’? Sometimes I just need to give thanks.
Yesterday a family donated some money to our little learning center project. I hugged the mom and whispered, “Thanks.” As I whispered this one word, I broke down in tears. I sobbed and she held me. I cried because of all that I felt about THIS year broke me open with this one word as I recognized this generous gesture. She cried too because she knew. She had been there since the beginning.
Just when I think this is all too hard – trying to preserve childhood, trying to show how beautiful this world is to kids who are forgetting, trying to carry it all – the miracles hold me steady.
This is the miracle of this word ‘thanks.’ It is the already received, of understanding the true gift. This family represented all the families that supported us this year, supported me and the staff of Casa Morpho who tried to keep the love of learning, and loving the world, alive. Despite all the closures and lockdowns, the virtual learning experiments, the part-time social distanced outdoor lessons with erratic schedules, these families did not leave. They gave what they could when they could even when sometimes it was a text saying that they were still with us.
While everyone stayed at home, my family drove to find internet every day so I could facilitate classes on zoom to keep the connection. We locked down and I had an emergency meeting with my guides. I told them, “We go on zoom tomorrow. I will show you how to do it and then set up your google classrooms asap. We don’t stop. We need to keep tethered.”
And they did. These guides who took a huge reduction in pay but put in the same hours of preparation and commitment kept going. Families left and we pushed on. I told them that it all mattered. The texts to parents. Telling jokes or drawing on the virtual whiteboard together instead of a formal lesson on a zoom call. Asking each student to please come on video and share what you feel. The frustrations of bad internet and lack of in-person social interaction made us become creative.
One day, my younger teen class surprised the kindergarten class on their zoom call and the little ones squealed with delight seeing their “best friends” again. They had a dance party and had show and tell – the kindy kids all had tadpoles that they were raising and would update the changes on their zoom calls.
It was rough. We all wanted to go and be with all of the kids. We wanted to high-five and hug. We wanted to quit. It was so hard to engage some days. I didn’t have answers or certainty. All I had were the families, my students, and the guides to pull me through. I also had Chris and the kids. AJ was here and she would put her arms around me and tell me what I was doing was amazing and to keep going. I gave up pay so my staff could put food on the table. My prayers alternate between help and thanks as my prayers feel like that they are heard and answered. Small miracles begin to accumulate. Outdoor learning alternatives. Collaborative neighbours. More families who believe in a different way to educate.
As I stood in her arms and sobbed, I felt the weight of my thanks. A year’s worth of gratitude. I felt my gratitude for the support, the love, and the loyalty especially when I had no idea where the money would come from as we all struggled in the uncertainty of the future. All I knew is that we had to maintain the relationships with the children, the families, and with each other. Casa Morpho is not a place. It is the community of people – in the most raw form, the form of tough conversations and giving before receiving.
Thank you all for your trust. Thank you for the words of encouragement. Thank you for the gifts of sparkling water, chocolate, and belief in me. Thank you for walking beside me every step of the way.