Done

I have a hard time with endings. I get wrapped up in my causes and then I don’t want to let go.  I have surrounded myself with people who hate to quit as well. We reinforce one another by sticking around when the many well-intended others have left the building. We speak in soft voices of what tenacity has given us – insights, wisdom, lives saved.

Then, there are the other folks – those who seem not to flinch as they walk away. They laugh at non-quitters, and caution us not to drown in our own holy water.  Mission-driven people on one side and the hard hearted pragmatist on the other. The back-and-forth perpetuates itself.

How can I work in a way to stay healthy and balanced? Is there an honorable way to take a pause and step to the side?

Last Friday was the last day of school. I stood in the hallway of the second floor, listening into the growing silence. That little voice in my head piped in – “That’s that.” I felt some tightness in my joints and neck. I had thought to stay late and wrap a few things up, but instead, I knew it was time to slip out. I was done. As I stepped out the front door, I got a picture of myself driving down the hill, with the school shrinking into a stack of painted concrete rectangles in my rear-view mirror.

But then I noticed a bit of unfinished business following me in the form of a second grade boy. Jashawn had been my office companion for the final month of school. In the last week, he had run out of places to go and had burned bridges with all but a couple teachers on the faculty. His daily rages damaged property and injured kids. One–to–one supervision, parent-teacher meetings (when mom was sober), rule bending, home visits, treats and incentives -none of these topical interventions could change the fact that he left his apartment each morning to escape chaos and addicted adults, only to arrive at school filled with people who knew Jashawn for the harm he caused.

Even by second grade, he had said and done things that could not be forgotten. As an institution, we were done. But now, he was walking by my side, asking me whether he could come back to school on Monday, though it would be a school without his classmates. Then, he smiled at me, reached into his top pocket, and put on a pair of reading glasses as he beamed up at me. The glasses were mine, snagged from my desk or so it seems.

Journeys, when they involve people, may end when we say so – or may not. They don’t end just because they’re unhealthful or because they don’t yield change. They also don’t end just because we walk away or close doors. If there is inevitability to an ending, I have yet to know what signs would indicate as much. As I go into work next week, I know there will be a child tapping at my window, smiling, saying hello, ready to get begin again.

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5 Responses to Done

  1. David May 29, 2012 at 2:23 pm #

    Just a note to say this provided some sustenance for me today. We are still 3 1/2 weeks from being ‘done’ at my school, but the feelings you express here are real, and there is a joy in a job that is never ‘done’ when it is about kids, as they don’t get ‘done’ either. There are many people who’s lives feel so incomplete because the work they are asked to do in this world doesn’t give the challenge or energy that a principalship does – it is the constant incompleteness that makes it fun (and exhausting!)

    Thanks Greg!

    • greg June 9, 2012 at 9:56 pm #

      David. . Thanks as always for tuning in here. I think ‘done’ comes when it has to, because you’re right that nothing is ever finished in the work we’re doing.

  2. Albert February 9, 2013 at 12:01 pm #

    Very nice, Greg.

  3. Bryce February 9, 2013 at 1:17 pm #

    Nice job, Principal John.

  4. Susan June 24, 2014 at 4:12 pm #

    Y0u are a stunning writer!!!!!!!!!!!!! Drop dead stunning!!!!!!!!!! Let jashawn go to school next week and help you!

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