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Ok, so this lesson is actually not solely my mom’s, it was kind of the Hughes family motto (yes, we are so awesome that we have our own motto… which may or may not have been stolen from one of the best films of our time).  Ever since we went to see Galaxy Quest for our family movie night, it has been our mission to never give and to never surrender.  I think this is one of the most valuable lessons my family taught me, and this learned attitude has carried me through a lot.

When I didn’t make drill team the first year never give up when I was tired after an all nighter at the end of finals week never surrender when I felt like I had lost all my drive to get through this life never give up when graduation felt like it would never come never surrender when depression and self hatred overwhelmed me never give up and when anxiety tried to win me over never, ever, surrender.  This attitude has seen me through many trials, and for that I thank my family (whom I miss so much).

And now, once again I’m at a mountain that seems impossible to climb.  This mountain is the respect and trust of my students.  Ah my students, my moody, emotional, crazy, unpredictable, have a millon other things in life to worry about, students.  How much I love them can not be written in words.

You see, I work at an alternative education school, so the kids that I work with have been failed by the school system thus far, have had very bad experiences at school, and therefore do not LIKE school, teachers, or administration one bit.  So on a fairly regular basis I can expect to see crying, yelling, mocking, ignoring, and my personal nonfavorite eye rolling.  My kids are awesome kids, don’t get me wrong, they just haven’t seen it yet.

Gosh, I just love them.  So much.

Everyday when I go to school I wish I could just take the love that is on the inside of me and put it on the outside so people could see it.  Because in my mind, if they could just see the real love that I have for them the walls would all just come down and we could work together to help them towards the life they want for themselves.

And though I can not do this, I can.

I have come to understand that the only way to show my students the Love that lives in my heart is through my actions.

Continually serving them and pursuing their trust never give up not becoming disheartened on the bad days never surrender giving each day my all never give up  treating them consistently with kindness and compassion despite how yesterday may have been never surrender when they yell and get upset, I turn the other cheek never give up when they shut down and ignore me, I lovingly push with empathy to find the reason behind the behavior rather than trying to correct the behavior in and of  itself never surrender taking my role and time with them seriously never give up and most importantly though I discipline, I never ever judge never surrender. 

I have come to understand that the only way to show my students the Love that lives in my heart is through my actions. I only hope that the human inside of me does not get in the way.

I am learning, slowly.  I make mistakes each day.  I’m too quick to judge or too passive to help them learn from their own mistakes.  But I am searching for a balance between these two, and I am leaning on the Love that changed my heart and makes me capable of loving others.  On the good days I celebrate, on the bad days I learn and move on.  I take the good and I leave the bad, because right now I can’t afford to give up, and I can not afford to surrender to the challenges.  I was made to love and be loved, and I will love these students with all my strength until I run out and have to use a little of His, because these students were made to be loved, so that is just what I will do. 

“Let love be genuine” 

Romans 12:9

I think this has to be one of the most beautiful statements Paul wrote.

Let love be genuine

let it be real

let it be tangible

let it be unique

let it be authentic

let it be trustworthy

Let love be genuine

This week Rachel’s Challenge has come to Raines High School to speak of the importance of kindness, compassion, understanding, and the chain reaction these things cause.  Today was my day to participate as an adult leader and Paul summarized the day better than anyone else could: love was genuine.

For those who have not heard of Rachel’s Challenge click here (I could not do it true justice) and then keep reading.

The day began as expected, skeptical high school students skeptically participating in warm up challenges (challenges I too would have thought were weird back in the day, but now that I teach nothing seems corny any more… weird how that works).  The two representatives who came to Raines shared their stories, stories that included love and loss and anger and ultimately forgiveness and healing.  And students’ attitudes began to slowly change.  Some teared up while others still were skeptical.  By the middle of the day we were put in small groups, one adult leader and 3-4 students, and asked to give our life story in 60 seconds (which seems short but when you’re bearing your soul to new people it feels like those 60 seconds will never end).  My students opened up a little bit and I got a small glimpse into their lives outside of school, which was enough for my heart to start breaking, as well as their walls.

Lunch came and went and we resumed with more stories and games until the day culminated around the activity called walk the line.  This was a completely silent activity in which both leaders and students participated.  Everyone stood on one line of the gym and a series of questions were read and if your answer was yes you were expected to walk across three feet of space to another line, turn around, and look everyone else in the eyes, and then turn and look at the people standing next to you.  The questions ranged everywhere from “if you are under 20 please cross the line” to “if you have ever been told you can’t cry cross the line” to even “if you have ever been hit because you wouldn’t stop crying cross the line”.  The final question was “if you have ever thought seriously about committing suicide please cross the line.”

Silence. The entire time silence.

So many students crossed the line. So many teachers crossed the line.

And then love flowed in and out of the gymnasium.  Masks came off, walls broke down, people embraced one another in tears because for the first time they were no longer alone.

We were no longer alone.

Everyone has a story.  That person who makes you so freaking angry.  That guy you can’t stand.  That girl who won’t stop talking.  That friend who hurt you.  That family member you swear you’ll never forgive.  Everyone has a story.

And when you can see that story, visually see that there is absolute crap that has gone on and is going on in people’s lives those grudges seem a little smaller.  Annoyances disappear.  Love increases. And the person is finally seen.

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.  Love one another with brotherly affection.  Outdo one another in showing honor. “

-Romans 12:9-10

After walk the line we returned to our small groups and the most incredible thing happened: my students let me in.  I got to see into their lives.  Some cried others didn’t, and it was beautiful.  I am so humbled by their trust and their stories.  I am so thankful that now I can see and know that my students truly have so much more going on in their lives than school.   We talked about what we could do to make sure the challenges and encouragements of the day lasted and we came up with several ideas, however I think Paul states it perfectly.

Let your love be genuine

reject the bad

embrace the good

love one another like a brother (or sister!)

outdo one another in love

I love that last one.  Can you imagine a world where everyone actually tried to outdo one another in love? I’m pretty sure that war, abuse, neglect, discrimination, and hatred itself would come to a screeching halt.

I am a little dismayed right now because I know my words will not capture how awesome today was.  But it was awesome, fun, eye opening, heart breaking, inspiring and most of all it was genuine.  I was astounded by the words of encouragement that the students had by the end of the day.  I could see the leaders, counselors, and encouragers that they were all made to be for the first time emerging out of them, and it was an honor.  Today was beautiful, today was genuine, I only hope that I can now be the same to others.  I pray that I too, will love genuinely.

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