Unimaginably, we live in a world where children are murdered. In Texas in a grade four class. In Ukrainian villages where a senseless brutal war also takes innocent young lives. I read the news and I weep. And I think back to the shortest verse in the Bible and know that perhaps they are the truest words ever spoken: Jesus wept. How can we not weep at a world that attacks budding life? It’s not that children’s lives are more valuable than the lives of others. Age isn’t a factor to God’s love or grace. It’s that in their devastating killing – a horrific story all on its own – we also rob the world of the long potential of what could have been in the promise of their life.
By the end of a school year the bond between teachers and their students is a tight one. Together they have journeyed daily for ten months ricocheting through a myriad of learning – sometimes in curriculum – but mainly in life. A teacher’s work is not socially distant – we tie shoes, untangle broken relationships between peers, hear of heartache, and laugh at knock-knock jokes we’ve heard repeatedly but they are still utterly charming when heard from an excited kid. We are intimately close to our students. And so I can say with certainty, that every teacher I ever worked with would have done exactly what those brave teachers in a Texas grade four room did: when horror invaded and the very worst happened they would gather their children in their arms and die trying to protect them. Their final act would be to show comfort and love, a frantic embrace.
When lock down practices became a routine in our schools, we knew that the practice in itself was sending our students home less innocent and more fearful. Parents told us of nightmares the evening following these practice days when we turned off lights, locked doors, and hid in corners from an imagined terror. Part of my job in the protocol was to go through the hallways and turn the handles of the doors to make sure teachers had locked them before hiding with their students. Teachers would tell me later that even that simple rattling of doorknobs caused students’ eyes to widen in fear. Even that small sound made the terror become briefly too real. I can’t think for too long without my heart racing about what that would be like in actuality.
Which leaves us with comfort and love. I guess that’s all that’s left. We walk through days completely blind as to what’s around the corner. There is still beauty and joy to be found. But right now I’m going to think a long time about a Grade four teacher dying with her arms around her students. She is my new hero. The only possible response to honour her life is to walk forward with comfort and love and a frantic embrace in the same way with those who cross our paths. And the One who shelters us under everlasting wings weeps with us along the way.