When I was a kid we lived near the Rogue River and on sticky summer days my family would head to the river. My big brother would walk the riverbank filling his pockets with skipping stones. He’d tromp along picking out the flattest, smoothest rocks and then he’d fling them with a flick of his wrist and they’d dance across the water. I tried in vain to make my own rocks tiptoe across the water, but I always chose rocks that were too lumpy, too big. I’d heave them into the water and after a satisfying splash, my rocks would sink to the bottom, the river rippling great rings in their wake.
Enough time has passed since sharing about the LOVE statue with my colleagues that I can look back on it and see beyond my quivering hands holding the paper, beyond stumbling over my own words in a room so quiet that my nervous vibrato seemed to echo off the walls. When talking with my colleagues, the heart of our conversation was my desire not to miss opportunities to act in love because I was too wrapped up in my own life to notice opportunities that are sometimes quite literally right in front of me. I talked about how it’s easy, especially this time of year, for me to be caught up in the inertia of my own life.
I mentioned previously that some of my dear colleagues shared what they wrote about what it means to love and that their writing moved me. Two things that they wrote stand out in particular. The first is this: love means loving even when that affection is not reciprocated. The enormity of that statement is something I’ve thought about daily since our time together. It’s something I struggle to put into practice and by the nods in the room, I’m guessing I wasn’t the only one acknowledging that unsavory part of myself.
The second thing that has stuck with me is what a teacher wrote about compassion. This teacher lost her husband to cancer last year. Currently another teacher’s husband is in the same fierce battle. Through tears in her eyes and over the muffled crying of just about everyone in the room, the first teacher shared about how love means acting with a depth of compassion only birthed by her own loss. This teacher gets a gold star for bravery. To write about her loss and how it has changed her and then to share about it in a staff meeting amazed me, amazes me still.
Each day since our staff meeting, teachers have sought me out telling me their stories, telling me about ways they’d acted in love in light of our meeting. Teachers began doing things like collecting money to help pay for cancer treatments and writing notes of encouragement to their students. I was delighted by their actions, but the thing that surprised me most and tickled me to my core, was that teachers took additional time outside of the staff meeting to finish the quick write we’d done. Oh, that our students would experience that compulsion to write!
My experience at the staff meeting harkens back to my memories of throwing rocks into the river. I threw my rock into the water and my little LOVE story rippled out in beautiful rings.
I’m left thinking then, what if writing in the classroom was like this? What if more teachers mustered the courage to share their own writing, to talk about big ideas, to use writing as a vehicle for growth, both academic and personal? I have a feeling that if we looked at the heart of writing as closely as we look at it’s structure, then profound change would occur.
My family moved away from the Rogue River and into the backyard of the Sacramento River, but I never did master the art of skipping stones. And I’m okay with that because right now I’m filling my pockets with rocks. Big, lumpy ones. Come January, during the first session in a writing series, I’ll start tossing my stones into the water. This time I hope they won’t skip across the water. No, I hope they sink down deep and ripple wide.