Three weeks ago, I started teaching school again. After a four year elementary teaching hiatus, I was nervous about getting back to it. I was fearful that I would commit to a whole year of classroom time, only to find that kids had changed and were terrible and that I didn't like them anymore at all. Or maybe that I had changed, and I was terrible. My last year of teaching in Tennessee was a particularly hard one, dealing with a divorce and the grief of losing kids and the shame of my own mistakes. I was the worst possible version of myself that year, and I still look back and feel guilty about those sweet little kindergarteners who really deserved a great teacher and didn't really get one. So I felt like I left the profession unsuccessful. It took a great deal of courage to take up my lesson plan book, clip board, and ridiculous, but very necessary, rolling cart and start again.
Every morning, three days a week, I can be found lugging my guitar, a cart filled with children's books and instruments, a cd player, and a golden retriever puppet (that has yet to be named) into the red brick school building across town. I go inside, hopeful that I haven't missed staff prayer time, and I get ready to start my day. I go in and out of classrooms, setting up my guitar and my lesson plans and all of the silly things I need to teach kids about rhythm and dynamics and harmony. We sing, we dance, we sometimes throw bean bags at each other instead of passing them, even though that's clearly against the rules. Occasionally we cry because someone else got to play the triangle, and for whatever reason, everyone wants the triangle. And every school day, I end each class with a simple little song. I have the kids fold their hands, as if they are praying, and we sing our thanks for everything we have. And each day, for these three minutes, I am reminded of how blessed I am.
It should be second nature to be grateful. After all, I have been to third world countries. I have seen poverty. I have been to the hospital to see friends whose little girl has cancer. I have cried with a friend when her dad died. I have prayed for friends who are single and struggle with loneliness. I have even been that friend. I have experienced love and grace and forgiveness. I have a thousand things for which to be thankful. I have a husband that makes me laugh. And sometimes scream, but mostly laugh. I have a huge family that loves and supports me and keeps me from forgetting who I am. I have friends, far and near, that I stay in touch with regularly. We text and call and Facebook message, and we keep each other encouraged and accountable. I have a ministry at church and school, and I love teaching these kids the truth of God's Word. I love it. I have a place to live and a car that is paid off and a plan to pay off the other one. But some days it is easy to focus on the things I do not have. The money I am not making. The food I cannot eat, lest I get fatter. And I grow discontent.
I have found that this helps. This little song, sung three times a day at the end of each elementary class. It brings me back to all of God's provision in my life. I am sure this isn't what Raffi* had in mind when he recorded this song. Especially because the song seems to be directed at no one in particular. But I know where good gifts come from. So I know where to send my thanks. And just in case I forget on the other days, I am glad to have these small reminders. Thanks a lot. Thanks for all I've got.
*If you have a child, and you love him, you should be listening to Raffi. Children's music that doesn't make you want to cut off your own ears.