I just finished a work marathon. Today is the start of our Fall enrichment programs at the New River Academy. Last year, on this day we began serving 20 children. Today we will start serving 75. There were a million things to finish taking care of in these past two weeks. I was in bed and fast asleep shortly after 8 last night and this morning I went and got a pedi and am giving myself some time to write.
Especially the last 6 days were beyond grace-filled. One of my responsibilities in the evening on Thursday was to train our preschool teacher staff in preparation for their new responsibilities with our 3-5 year-old children. Several had never been exposed to any Montessori-based learning work. Through the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd I have received a fair amount of training in this pedagogy. More than anything, what I love is the profound respect for the child that is inherent in Maria Montessori’s approach to learning. Our children will do practical life work twice a week.
On Thursday night I made a presentation on beautiful walking–one of the very first expressions of grace and courtesy the child is invited to master. With the adults, as with children, I sensed the shift from our somewhat manic rhythms of daily life to a more quiet, thoughtful, gentle time as we practiced beautiful walking and beautiful talking. I am grateful for a teacher staff who will have to do more, not yet with any raise in pay, and so willingly embraced new ideas and new ways of providing hospitable learning spaces for our children.
Friday and Saturday were a flurry of mopping, sweeping, moving furniture and setting up the new resource room for the preschool enrichment program. I put out the materials for a lot of diferent practical life work and got tickled with the materials for the work opening and closing. On Saturday morning I got help from two brand-new high school students, guys both of them, all awkward elbows and big Adam’s apples in bodies that have a while to catch up to all that first growth. Their work generated new, extra work for me and even that amused and pleased me–my life is filled with such a variety of characters of every size and stripe!
On Saturday in the afternoon, I went to the airport to meet Ana Hernandez, a musician and congregation development person who I met at a conference a couple of years ago. Ana was coming to work with us on the place of music in the New River Regional Ministry and to help us find our voice and the song we’ve been given to sing. There were some tense moments when members of all our community gathered to spend time with Ana and me in the evening. I, at least, was keenly aware that we are fragile, and still skating on the surface a lot of the time. But it was also a moment to see clearly that we are all we’ve got and the ministry happens with a bunch of improbable folks, all of as fractious and blind and lame as any in the Bible.
Sunday, Ana and I were at the “big” church and there, difference is not so obvious and the Sunday liturgy was in place to carry us through something very new like Ana invited us into–we did this really beautiful humming/chanting/harmonizing improvisation of the Prayers of the People and it worked. I looked around at the space where there are layers and layers and layers of my family story–more layers than anywhere else–and realized this time is winding now, and only too soon, it will be time to say farewell. Again, that sense of overwhelming gratitude, this time mixed with the kind of dislocation that goes with the discerning I am in the midst of. We have been lent to each other for such a short time…
And time was not what I had much of after the service because then it was on to host an open house for the parents of our preschoolers who will be participating in this new venture in learning we launch today. The moms and dads sat as eager and curious and a tiny bit apprehensive as their children on the first day of school. I looked out and saw families from Latin America, India and Pakistan, the Caribbean Islands, Canada and the USA. What most overwhelmed me was what I had been most apprehensive about. For this program to work well, we will need considerable parent involvement. The United Way grant funds much of what we are doing but we need lots of adults working with our children. It was up to me to “make the ask”. Every single parent who attended (and there were about 40 or so) volunteered to help. Not only will we get the help we need–we may even become that more close-knit learning community we’ve been building towards for 3 years now.
In a bit, I will jump back into the fray and I have a boat-load of work to do before I make my retreat in October. This morning it felt like heaven to get my tired feet tended to and to stop and give thanks for this work I have been given to hold lightly and love deeply.