On Tuesday, I had a good feeling about Kennedy. I held on stand-up meeting with my team on the playground. We talked about her progress though she had been a girl who had worked everyone’s last nerve. She was coming to school more and fighting less. Progress! Our efforts appeared to be paying off.
We touched on our action plan, went over a couple of back-sliding bits, and sketched out a date for our next blacktop chat. But then, on Wednesday, prior to the final school bell, three individuals in dark suits came to the front office. My secretary called me on the yard telling me they were coming. Kennedy would be removed from school and her home. The dark suited ones came to the yard, picked her up, and they left minutes later.
Just like that. . .
Plans and efforts of five loving individuals came to a standstill. One of us would contact the boy’s mother, someone we knew well, to ask how we might help. But we would not pry. Otherwise, she was to become a penciled notation in calendars until we could learn more.
How quickly things turn.
Lots of noise rose up in my head. I wondered whether my efforts (all of our efforts) made a difference. Just that morning, Kennedy had been named team captain for kickball and she had said yes to the assignment. I felt a kind of hole in the middle of my body. Maybe my team felt the same. We had stuck ourselves out on this one.
I need a daily practice that keys in on doing one’s personal best as its own kind of reward. Many details do not fall under my jurisdiction, and getting a yank like this can stop a team – and a principal – cold. What practice would help me build stamina to stick it out even when things might change in an instant?
A voice whispered “if you can’t love yourself, how you gonna love someone else.” Where had I heard that? That’s how one shows respect for one’s self and the task at hand. If I want to control the result, then I can count on getting ‘all tore up.’ as one of my colleagues counseled. What are the limits? How can I celebrate what I do control? What in the world might happen tomorrow? And, where had I put that bottle of aspirin?
I was struggling to reconcile my thoughts when, days later, I got a complete answer from watching my the kitchen staffer clean the school’s stove. Kids had left the lunch line area a disaster, and the refrigerator had broken down. But he approached the task, it became an all encompassing mission. The knobs came off, grates came up, and grease pan came out. Only the appropriate cleaners were used. To me, it appeared that time had stopped or at least that the rest of the world did not matter. If a twister were to rip through the kitchen and lift both him and the stove into the stratosphere, I imagine that he would have been complete until that last moment. This kind of focus was part of what I needed.
Take care of the love in front of your face.
I’m coming to see surrender into the present as key. Maybe there are tricks that I can adopt that will help. But, if I find myself feeling robbed when I confront the unexpected, maybe I need to become the change I wish to see in the world.
I am convinced I’ll have ample chances to practice.