Its hard to believe that in one year, my life changed entirely. After being unemployed for a few weeks–after my interim period with Shared Hope International came to a close–I applied for a job at a public elementary school, and it completely changed my life. I feel incredibly blessed. I don’t intend to work as a teacher, or even a learning specialist, or even with kids, but working with the Centennial School district has been so clarifying. The simple complexity (paradox, I know) of the job centered me on my true vocation: to be relationally present in a way that draws people out and brings about transformation.
When I first worked with these kids, whether they had behavioral problems, mental illness, disabilities, or a mixture of all those things, all I could find myself doing was offer my presence. After all, I had no formal training in education or behavior. The simplicity of being present was all I could actually offer.
I’ve quickly learned that being present is the simple part. I’ve learned that I don’t just want to be present. Its actually pretty easy to be present. Instead, I want to be present in a way that draws kids out and transforms lives. That is where things get complex. How do I be present and draw out kids who constantly want to run? How do I be present and draw out kids who don’t speak? How do I earn the trust of kids who are vowing to never trust anyone again? This is the simple, yet complex, work that I have committed to explore. And I in no way have the answers to those questions, but day by day, I love doing my best.
Unexpectedly, this work is also drawing me out. Its making me excited. It fuels me. It fires me up. When I think about my degree in Christian Ministry in light of my experience with the schools, I can see why I pursued this degree. In ministry, much is promised. Deep down inside of me, a fire was burning. I wanted to see transformation happen in people, and I believed (and still do) that this kind of life transformation can happen through the lens of Christ.
I read the stories of Jesus, and I see his profound ability to be present with people in a way that draws out their personality and brings about transformation. I want to do that too. When working with kids in a public school district, I get to do that in its simplest form. No proselytizing, no sermons, no blurting out doctrines or beliefs; instead, I just be present. I sit with kids. I listen to kids. I talk to kids. And when I’m doing that to the best of my ability, something happens, and lives change.
The kids who won’t talk will talk.
The kids who run out of the classroom won’t run.
The kids who don’t trust will, on occasion, begin to trust me.
People wonder how I do it, and I don’t know. I guess I just sit with every kid, see their unique potential, seek to draw it out, and be present.