Slice of Life is sponsored on Tuesdays by Two Writing Teachers.
Despair. This was a vocabulary word my students and I discussed the other day. I explained that to despair was to lose hope. One of my wise students asked if I ever felt despair. I looked in their eleven-year-old eyes and nodded my head. I confessed that sometimes I lose hope in the goodness in people. That others bring me down and make me sad. Then a quiet voice asked, “How do you get hope back?” and I shared my secret, you look for the good.
This week there has been much reason to despair. Loosing members of our community too soon. Ugliness on social media. Friends being hurt by unkindness. Watching my son be hurt. That last one was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. Luke is in football. Against all odds, Luke loves football. As his mom, I’d like nothing more than to wrap him in bubble wrap and move him away from any sport that has the risks that football does. But, also as his mom, I want him to grow and find what he loves. Football it is.
For the second time this season, officials were unkind to him. Luke is larger than the majority of the sixth graders. He can thank his father for that DNA. Being tall and broad, he seems to be seen differently by the officials. They assume he is aggressive. They assume he is unkind. He’s called for penalties I know he didn’t commit. He’s been called a “jerk” by one official, been told he’d be kicked out of a game by another. I’ve watched, I’ve checked in with his coaches. They have reassured me, the officials were wrong, my son is fine. And still, my heart hurts for him.
Adults being unkind to children are something that gets me every time. It hurts when I see it done to my students. It hurts when I see it with my own children. Fortunately, for them, that is a rare occurrence. For that, they are lucky.
And so I began my Monday with despair in my heart. I ached for those who had lost loved ones recently. I was saddened to see people reacting with vitriol to others online. And most of all, I was sad for my son. But, as always, the good began to rise to the surface. It came in the form of coaches – my son’s and others in town – that took the time to email me and let me know how impressed they were with his character. It came from friends who sent me kind notes throughout the day. And it came from my students, especially my fifth grade boys on the same team as my son. They came in, testosterone racing, ready to go out and protect Luke against all the evildoers everywhere. I looked at their earnest faces, listened to their words of support, and my heart filled with love. Yes, there is negativity everywhere, and if you choose to focus on it, you will be filled with despair. But the light comes in if you let it, and, as Peter Reynolds reminded us, we make the light. I was surrounded by that light today. The despair has been banished and the hope has been renewed.