Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Here is a poem written by my grandson Louis, age 8, a lad with an abundance of talent, including a bountiful appreciation for the music of words …

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On first glance, the photo below may not bring to mind the word ‘abundance’, but when I paused this morning on our walk in the Peace Sanctuary, a nature preserve on the Mystic River, and focused on this simple scene, there did seem to be a wonderful plentifulness in it. Yes, it is only leaves and sticks, but we might also say a splendid sunset is only sky and light, and the silliness of our statement would be instantly obvious. The truth is, this photo shows a small sample of nature’s unreserved exuberance, a profusion of its shapes and textures and colors. These may be just humdrum leaves and sticks, but there’s a simple kind of lavishness here that I’m glad I paused to look at this morning.

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I’m not a church-going person, but I do recall hearing, in a passing conversation with a Christian friend, something about “grace and glory”, and, surprisingly, those words occasionally came back to me when I was doing the daily work of a middle school English teacher (as I did for 45 years). I think of grace, not in a religious way, but in an everyday, commonplace way, as the quiet gifts I regularly receive, gifts of good thoughts and helpful feelings. When I was working with my young students, continuous useful ideas somehow seemed to flow toward me, and feelings that made good teaching possible were given to me in astounding abundance. I have no idea where all this comes from, all this munificence of spirit that I still make use of each day, but I feel it fully, moment by moment. This, for me, is what grace is – the nonstop giving of a universe that seems so full of goodness the giving might never stop – and it is this grace that caused me to feel the simple and straightforward glory of teaching. I’m not talking about big-time glory, like superstars seem to bask in, but rather the calm glory of seeing a student send out a stream of smiles because she finally understands a Dickinson poem, or watching a boy break through his hang-ups about writing and just set down his thoughts with liberty and delight. The glories of English class were as small as a student holding a chair for another student, or the shy thank-you’s I sometimes received at the end of class, or the creation of carefully shared ideas during discussions. It’s a simple thing, I think, to feel the glory given to any person blessed enough to be a teacher. They were all around me in my classroom — constant, rousing gifts from anywhere and everywhere. 

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