Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Give Humanity a Chance

In light of the recent events in Boston, I am making a simple plea to all my fellow humans: give humanity a chance!

Our society is reeling from the tragic events that took three lives and devastated many more. It’s easy to point fingers, and shout accusations, to withdraw into a proverbial cave of misunderstanding and hatred. It’s a much more difficult task to love, and learn to forgive. I’m not saying that we should drop everything, hold hands and sing a rousing chorus of Kumbaya- only that we should take the time to realize that humanity does not end in the face of senseless violence.

My roommate is from Boston. Her sister and a number of friends from college were at the marathon. I sat on the couch next to her, awkwardly rubbing her shoulder as she cried and avoided eye contact with our third roommate. We were invaders on her sorrow- her attempts to reconcile with the fact we are 3,000 miles from Boston and her city was hurting.

Boston, we love you- I love you.

There aren’t words in the English language that can accurately describe my feelings towards the people of Boston who have stood so strong in the face of this tragedy. I wish sorry was enough to cover the pain of the loss, but I know that it’s not even a band-aid on this wound.

What I can do, what we can all do, is to not give up on the idea of humanity. We need to believe that there is good in people out there and not run to social media and cry about the decline of mankind and peace. It still exists, and although it’s hard to find right now, we need to believe that peace is still possible, that love is still attainable.

The best thing to do to honor the dead is to not give up the idea that they were- they are somebody important. If we allow ourselves to be consumed by rage, we forget to remember them. Don’t forget what the Tsarnaev brothers did. What they did was an atrocity- a pathetic cry for attention. But don’t withdraw either. Instead of looking at your neighbor with suspect eyes, hold out your hand.

Give humanity a chance. It’s not perfect. It takes work, and it has multiple definitions. But, it’s something that is worth working for. It’s something that we shouldn’t give up on because there are so many beautiful things that come out of humanity.

Humanity is seeing people running towards the bombs when no one would have blamed them for running away. Humanity is us united, declaring that we are #BostonStrong and cheering together when the suspects were cornered. Humanity is the students who are graduating soon. I have 24 seniors who are beating their wings against the cage of high school. When I see people questioning humanity- demanding to know what is wrong with people- my heart breaks. What kind of society are my students moving into? How quickly will the stars in their eyes fade when they see people around them giving up?
Humanity is holding hands, creating a human fence to keep out the Westboro Baptists who have threatened to picket. Humanity is not letting that hatred win over the events that should be celebrations of beautiful lives.

If we give up on humanity, we give up on the idea that people are inherently good. That more are willing to give a helping hand than to bite an outstretched one. If we give up on humanity, then we give up on ourselves. Only then, will we have truly lost everything.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Open Skies (Ha!)

This past weekend, we had a track meet in Gallup, and the weather was gorgeous! It topped off at about 78F, which is a high for the season so far, and everyone was running around in their t-shirts.

April on the Rez is also windy season. And, when I say windy season, I don't mean the occasional high gust of wind- I mean, you see objects and people go flying. You cover your face in order to keep ensure a daily calcium intake through dirt if you don't cover your mouth well enough.

My kids laugh as I come in from lunch (cafeteria is across campus) and dump dirt out of my shoe into the trash can. There is no such thing as a skyscraper out here...the wind blows across the open areas in a brutal attempt to knock you off your feet. It snatches doors out of your hands. Yesterday, I caught a flying nun. Sister was trying to hold the door for me so I could carry the mail, but we both lost that contest and ended up smushed against each other in the doorway as the wind laughed at us.

Then, it started to rain. I love the rain, more than people usually do. I love to dance in it, be in it. However, simple science tells us what happens when you mix water and dirt: MUD. So, we have crazy swirling dirt playing tag with the wind, and you have the rain. Suddenly, it is raining mud.


A few friends and I were in a car going to watch the final basketball game for March Madness (congrats, Louisville) and as we are going down the highway, I am just watching in fascination as muddy droplets roll down the windows.

Then, this morning, I woke up to see snow on the ground.

Well, then. There really is nothing like Rez life!

Friday, April 5, 2013


A few weeks ago, I hit my breaking point. I came home from school so completely overwhelmed that I couldn’t handle it. I stripped off my school clothes and crawled under the covers of my bed where I sobbed for a good half hour. I was feeling useless, in my school and in my community. I was sick of people and myself, and all I wanted in that moment was to catch the next plane home and forget this commitment I had made. An accreditation team had converged upon our school and all the teachers were being monitored for results- so the day people were in my room, I had a group of students behave so badly, I was embarrassed. It was almost as if they had intentionally set out to misbehave as much as possible. I later found out from other teachers that they did. But, it hurt to see students so disrespectfully disregard their classmates, and myself in order to make a mockery of something. Additionally, I came in to my room that morning to see that our classroom turtle had died overnight, and I had to clean that up before the students came in and saw. So, I have a bunch of students upset over our turtle, I have the pressure of being monitored, and I have a group of students that are playing jump rope with my last nerve. 

Luckily, I have friends who drag me out of my room and up the road to Denny’s to get milkshakes and vent about everything. Nothing becomes sacred over Oreo crumble mudslides- I am tired, I am overwhelmed, I am frustrated. I think to myself- I say out loud to them- this is NOT what I signed up for. Sometimes, I think that is becoming the mantra of my year here, and I refuse to let that happen. I am trying to change my perspectives on many things- and that perhaps, is the most difficult thing about this year. I am still trying to find out who I am, and what my purpose is, and sometimes it gets too clouded over with what I think should happen, or what I want to happen. 

Maybe this is what I signed up for. I realize that nothing could have really prepared me for what I was going to encounter this year. I got caught up in the good points of service, so much so that I forgot that there were going to be rough spots as well. But, I am coming to learn that it is okay to have second thoughts about what I am doing. That it is okay to think sometimes that someone better could have come, should have come. What I am slowly realizing though, is that in this moment, right here and right now, I AM the person who should have come, and I am the person who needed to stay through this year. No, it’s not always easy. No, I am not always treated the way I should be treated. But, it’s okay. 

I am glad that it cost over $700 to get a plane ticket from Albuquerque to Philadelphia. Because I sat down, swallowed my heart and told myself to suck it up. I realized that there are 30 students every day that look up to me, who come into my classroom expecting to learn and needing me to be there for them. I have 23 seniors who are going to graduate in a month that are starting to freak out at the reality of it. I am glad that I can be there to reassure them that life will go on, and that they will be successful. I realized that for every time I’ve wanted to cry there have been five times where I have actually laughed out loud. 

The joys of teaching are not seeing what they’ve learned about government (although a plus!)- it’s about seeing what they’ve learned about themselves. I have a rough, tough, burly senior boy who sat in my classroom for an hour after school one day because he wanted to talk to me. He’s been at the same school since he was in kindergarten and doesn’t know what he’s going to do after May. All his fears weren’t alleviated in one talk, but he was able to leave feeling like he could do something more- that he could be successful somewhere outside the walls of this school. I have a student who was given a full ride to Stanford, and I saw all her classmates excited, happy for her. As the school year is starting to wind down, I see daily acclamations for our students, who are preparing to move on to bigger and better things. I think to myself- where did the time go? Last week was just September! I was just struggling to remember all their names and what time the bell rang for each period. 

I tell them stories to make them laugh- I tell them about how I tripped up the stage at my own high school graduation, so be glad that their class is only 23, and not 260. Or to be thankful that the stage is firmly in place, and not hastily constructed from under the gym bleachers. Gaps on the stairs, I tell them, are not high heel friendly. I tease them and tell them that the dress I am wearing to chaperone their prom is going to be fancier than theirs. It’s not, and we all know it, but it is still funny. I tell them how the first two months of my first semester in college I wanted to be a pre-med student. They look around at the room I’ve decorated with social studies objects, and laugh. I join them, and tell them that it was for the best I changed my career path. They laugh harder when I tell them my kindergarten job description involved me being the first female president, presiding over the moon. 

I leaned against the white board one day, arms crossed as I watched my seniors in two groups working on a research project. They are competing in mock congress soon and are finding evidence to support their side. They are intent, hunched over computers, running back and forth checking their claims. I start to laugh because they start trash talking each other, and I wonder if this is what it looks like in Washington. “Hey, hey, Con side! You guys are going DOWN!” They get a reprieve from their usual khaki uniform to wear business attire to argue with each other. 

I realize that this is what matters most this year. It’s not the bad moments that I will allow to shape my memories of time on the Reservation- it’s the times that my kids hi-five me as I walk down the hallway; when they leave me funny notes on the whiteboard; when they bring me a brownie in the morning and shyly tell me that they made them last night-but shhhh, don’t tell the other guys! It’s not when one of my athletes quits suddenly- it’s when one of them beats a personal record and walks away from the meet with his head held high and high fives the other athletes from other schools because they’ve done better. It’s seeing that my kids are growing and maturing every day and the fact that I know that they all have potential to be someone great- they already are.

I am preparing to take the next step in my life- and what is daunting about that is that I am still unsure of what that step is going to be- or where it might lead me. Proverbially-it might lead me off a cliff, or straight into the arms of the perfect placement for me. Who knows? The year I have learned to rely on people outside of myself- to make myself open to pain in order to learn and grow from it. I have friends and family who I have become closer to, in part because physical distant is so hard to embrace. And most of all, although there might be days where I hide under my covers, I need to remember that if I hid my head, I will never see if the sun is shining. And out here, it usually is.