Chris, thank you for writing this. The boys are beautiful. You are beautiful. I've been very angry as well, for most of the same reasons, feeling hopeless and wanting to do something. We can do many things but they all begin with love and kindness, first to those close to us and ourselves.
As a white man, my anger is superfluous. No matter how I direct it, it is anger by proxy, angry for others, anger against the power I'm a part of. Kindness, that I can do. And it is never superfluous. There's always a need somewhere.
And there is a great need for kind men like you to teach.
I'm returning to poetry. I live where Walt Whitman wrote Leaves of Grass. I am going to read it where he was inspired. Maybe I'll write some again, too.
Don't forget to be kind to yourself.
You deserve it.
This all sounds sappy as hell, but I mean it. We will save all we can together. It's all we can do.
Chris, this is beautiful. Your poetry class has made such a positive and unique impact on my students. My students have been more vulnerable then ever before because of your class, which has made it easier for them to express their feelings. One student in particular who has difficult life at home has said to me, "I have so much on my mind, but when I write, my mind feels emptier."
My, my, my - this is the first thing I’ve read today and I feel like you gifted me a good day. It’s hard to find the good in all the bad, isn’t it? But you’re doing it. This struggle is worth it. You are the person who created a space for that boy to sing, and for another to love him for being open. That’s so intense and beautiful. You did that! That’s amazing! Keep pushing through, Chris. Keep pushing love out there. And know that I am with you every time you’re on the side of the road, panicking, and don’t know why. I do that too. How our roadsides are not filled with people like us, screaming into the safe void of our cars, I don’t know. Xo
Dammit, Chris. Every. Damn. Time. You just get to the heart of ... I don't even know what, but the heart of something. The core of the pain and sorrow. This heart-knowledge we all have that, yes, life includes suffering but it isn't actually required that we inflict suffering on one another, and that if we didn't, the joy and gratitude and shared griefs could be wholly ours. You get to all of it every time, and no MFA would ever help with that.
Speaking of which, I have an MFA and it's one of the most useless things I've ever done. Every April in normal times I teach creative writing at the elementary school for our Arts in April program, and if I hadn't let go of everything my MFA tried to teach me I'd be worse than useless for the kids. The only thing I can "teach" them is to look at stories they love and follow what makes them interested or excited in their own stories. I had one kid who chose the class two years in a row and wrote Warrior Cats fan fiction the entire time and it was the most fun ever.
Your students are going to be in my heart today. And all the brokenness. You're right--almost everyone I know is cracked open in different ways right now.
Yes to all of this. So many people (myself included) seem to be especially struggling lately. In some ways, it feels as if we've lived in this strange pandemic world too long. There's no normal to go back to anymore, our reserves are depleted, the violence and ignorance and cruelty around us never seems to stop. We're all raw all the time. Your story about the boys in your poetry class made my heart break open because I do think that's exactly what we need--even though we're all there right now, trading off those two roles is important right now. Letting ourselves be vulnerable around someone safe, and also being there for someone we care about. The first is necessary because we need to acknowledge exactly how hard everything is right now, how isolating. The second because it takes getting out of ourselves to rebuild towards some semblance of whole. Thank you for writing this. Your thoughts always help me put words to something I've been feeling but unable verbalize.
The story of the Two Boys is the most hopeful thing I have read in a significant period of time.
There's a story about Tolkien that may be apocryphal, but it has stuck with me through the years. He was involved in the trench warfare in France during WW1, and it was in those trenches that he began to work out the world and the story of Bilbo Baggins. I don't know if he came up with his "If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world" line during the Battle of the Somme, but the idea of being completely surrounded by some of the worst pieces of humanity while dreaming of a life of community and peace and artistic expression of those ideals is one that feels so relatable right now.
Wow. This is so incredibly moving and human.
What a sensitive post. Those kids are lucky to have you shuffling in to engage and encourage them. Your role, perhaps, is that of the old wise ones who carried with them the group's memories--the good ones and the bad ones--who helped guide the path forward?
I'm slowly hearing this more and more, and I'm so grateful when it is touched on: We have to commit to action to create change and not just hope for it ...and hope that the wind carries it to someone who can do it "better than we can." Nah. There's action in us. It's in you teaching, even when you're fighting. It's that little boy going in for a hug because it's his soul telling him what needs to be done. That's all of us figuring out one more action, however small, to make this world a little bit better every day.
Damn, I'm getting my morning cry in for sure. Those kids are lucky to have you. May I share your post on my blog? I'm have writer's block, really just hurting in a way I can't seem to put words to the paper these days.
Oh man, this pierced me right in the chest today. Thank you for voicing it: "Maybe something different is broken, some frayed binding finally snapped." Sharing this fear, suspecting sth similar has gone awry inside myself this year.
And yes, to love. And yes, to poetry! And most of all to shuffling into classrooms, literal/metaphorical, empty/full, guiding ourselves & others to a shared sense of both these things.
Thank you for this morning’s gift of such beautiful truth. Tears are good an honest expression of being moved. The children will always have your words as well as their own. Haiku is so powerful what better introduction to their own emotions . Your story has a way of weaving threads into whole cloth. From an old weaver of threads.
"It's hard being broken open." I'm sure you've given your students this first line, or thought about it, and time to write the rest.
Then shared first.
Teaching's hard. You're a good teacher.
I’m having these cracking moments too, and can imagine just those spots in Missoula, though I’m far from home. Thanks for writing, and for teaching—the kids and the rest of us.
Thank you for this writing....it brought me to tears...in a very good, and apparently deeply needed way. Heartfelt, deep, beautiful work! 🙏🏻
I've been feeling raw today and this let me actually, really, feel it. I am so grateful for you and your words. Both of those views break me a little, too.