I apologize for the extended absence; I went back to work on August 15th, and since then life has been a blur of professional development and pre-planning. In my case, work this year means teaching, and teaching means preschool, and preschool means the very “pre” — I will have the one-year-olds this year (since they have to be at least 18-months by the start of school they will all be two by the end of February, but still they are all one now). I am at a different school from last year (that is a whole other ten blog posts), but it is the school where I worked before I left to finish my M.Div. full-time, so there is much I am already comfortable with.
In any case, it is always a full-on run for me until Parent’s Night, at which point I hit the obstacle course’s brick wall and try to climb it through sheer will (preaching is less nerve-wracking for me than any parent meeting, which I may want to note for future vocational discernment purposes). This Parent’s Night, at one of the class informational sessions, I made a joke while introducing myself that I have both an M.A. in education and an M.Div. — and what else can you do with those things except teach children at a church?
In essence, though, it has been a question I’ve been asking myself lately: having been educated and trained to perform ministry, how is my current work a ministry? Upon reflection, I find the following to be true: the care and teaching of young children is an intense practice in loving kindness, practicing patience, and doing justice.
Most parents would probably agree, of course. But try imagining one child, or two, or three — and then imagine twelve of them, all the same age, all vying for the same amount of resources, including your time, attention, and patience.
Sometimes I think that anyone who is interested in peacemaking should spend some time in a toddler classroom, where every ego is new, fresh, and the most important thing to that child. The day is an exercise in fairness and conflict-resolution. Who had this toy first? How does “first” equal (or not equal) “fair”? How long is it right for someone to have a toy before they have to give it to someone who wants it? Do we have to take turns or can you work together (with the same blocks, at the same paint easel, with the same baby dolls)?
How we treat others is of the utmost importance. It’s okay to be mad or angry or frustrated or sad or upset, but that doesn’t mean you can hurt other people. We use our words. It’s not okay to hit, push or bite just because we don’t get what we want. We notice when other people are hurt and try to help them. We don’t want them to be hurt by something we did. Sometimes it’s better to walk away and find something else to do. Sometimes we have to stand up for ourselves when someone is trying to hurt us, but that doesn’t mean we can hurt them back. Sometimes we have to ask for help from someone bigger (older, more powerful, cosmic) than us when we don’t know what to do.
I don’t know when we stop learning these things (or forget that we did learn them), but I often think that our communities small and large might be better off if we kept some of our early education in mind. I, at least, will be trying to practice these principles in the months ahead. It might not be complicated theology, but it is certainly not a bad way to live — or to practice ministry.