“Show your school spirit with your very own school mascot COVID face mask!” So the very strange ad went, in this very strange year, as August comes each year, and with it, the preparation for another year of school. Some districts have already started, but I always recall that right around August 28, just before Labor Day weekend, we would start school for a couple of days, just to get settled, and then move forward after the holiday with the pencils, books and teacher’s dirty looks…
Whatever time or date it begins this year, it will begin most likely in a very strange manner. I remember the fond ritual of getting school supplies, with crayons, pencils, rulers, notebook paper, spiral notebooks, some kind of three-ring binder – do they even use compasses, with those razor sharp points for holding one side into the paper, or protractors, so we would always know what a 45 degree angle looked like? It was a glorious time, especially if we could talk Mom into an upgrade of the basic items. Oh, and don’t forget the metal Thermos lunchbox with the Thermos inside for keeping the milk cold until noon, and the canvas backpack.
Nowadays, I’m not even sure what would need to be on the list. Kleenex boxes, hand sanitizer, masks, and gloves or even face shields? Going back to school might feel more like entering a war zone, and needing the proper equipment, just to survive. A far different time than when every little boy would bring his well-sharpened knife to school, to be able to play mumbly-peg, or carve something during recess. Back then was the time when, if someone got chicken pox, you put all the kids together so everyone would get it at the same time, and get over it. Every class had the chance to have colds, the flu, strep throat, or some other contagious entity sweep through the rows and take students out for a few days or even a week.
I’m pretty sure that’s not the protocol anymore. The school system in Fargo just announced that they are going to do a “hybrid” model for weekly school attendance. Divided into an “A” or a “B” group, the “A” students will come into the school one week on Monday through Wednesday, and then be home doing distance learning on Thursday and Friday. The “B” students would be home the first three days, and then come to school on Thursday and Friday. The next week, it would switch, and the “B” class start in school for the first three days, and then home for Thursday and Friday with the “A” students mirroring that for their attendance. When I read of the plan, my head began to involuntarily shake back and forth, and my eyes closed. The next thing I did was to thank our God that we had no children in school. I think the word, “nightmare” is appropriate for this year. My sister-in-law teaches music to elementary students – all grades. Suddenly, there are twice as many units to be taught, with each week being a different schedule, and then try to teach both vocal and basic instrumental music via long-distance learning. If it were so before, it is so much more so now that we are not paying our teachers near enough, especially for this season.
Since it is so new, we have no idea what impact it will have on the long-term retaining of knowledge taught. Will it become normal? Will we be doing this way of school five years from now? Will every grandparent need to wear a mask just to see their grandchildren? As it always happens in an adaptive period for a culture or a society, right now we have way more questions that reasonable answers – in fact, for many of the questions there are not answers, until they are discovered by the successes and failures of a novel way of education.
Some experts offer the ominous idea that we only have a number of weeks to get this right, before late fall and winter brings everyone inside, and the possible spread of the virus increases. With all of this, it is possible, and even acceptable to allow fear to drive much of what we will do in times to come. When I don’t know what the future holds, mostly, and what I do know seems to simply be dangerous and thorny, my first reaction is much like the one when I was nine, standing on the steps of the haunted house at the carnival in town, having paid my money to get scared, and then coming to my senses that there was no good reason to go forward – I was scared already. The reaction, and the decision I made was to say no – and to turn around and walk away. The only trouble is, we can’t walk away from the future. Even if we stand still, it comes forward to meet us. It certainly brings joy and happy times, but it seems, right now at least, that it is loaded with more danger and foreboding than lightness and freedom.
When this becomes the case at any time in our lives, the only viable option, the only reasonable plan, the only truly hopeful thing to do – is to pray. Turn your eyes upon Jesus – look full in his wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace. Again, I am never a proponent of prayer defined as begging, and I think it is poor form for us to demand or stomp our feet at God to make it all right. We can, however, make some important statements, and continue to make them until we believe them:
I trust you, God, and I place my life in your hands. I fear for our children as they return to school, and for our teachers, and I place them as well in the light of Your loving care. I ask that you give me, and us strength and grace for the living of this day, and to have confidence, and the blessed assurance that You hold the future, and that you hold me.
It will be well – just a bit scary right now, but know that God is with you, and that you are not alone. Thanks be to God.
Word for the day: salubrious. Pronounced sal-OO-bree-us, the word means, “healthful.” Of course, coming from the Latin, salus, meaning, “welfare, health.” If something is salubrious for us, it’s good for our health, like fresh air, or exercise. I would not include lima beans in that category – although bran muffins could indeed be salubrious for us. In many settings, when a toast is made, the words, “Here’s to…” acknowledge the toast maker is wanting the best for the one honored in the toast. In Spanish speaking countries, one will say “salud!” and in Italy it is “salute! (sal-OO—tay).” They both offer blessings to the receiver of the toast, and it pretty well means, “Bless you!” The best health you can receive.
In case you were wondering, the word, “salute,” when someone raises their right hand up to their eyebrow, especially when greeting a superior officer, is not quite the same word root. The Latin for this salute is salvus, which actually means “safety.” Since in Roman times, assassinations were common, when someone wanted to come near a politician or military leader, they would show that they carried no weapon in what was normally their fighting hand – the right hand. They would “salute,” and then be allowed to approach. It did keep the leader healthy in one way, but not the same as lifting a glass and making a blessing. Have a safe and blessed day…
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.