Yesterday work started with a third grader pulling the fire alarm. The whole school evacuated to the back of the playground, amidst much grumbling from the teachers (this particular third grader has created a bit of a reputation for causing trouble). When his mom came to pick him up, she told us that she’s used to it and wasn’t even angry.
On the bus ride home, I talked with one of the other teachers about it and about how so many of the kids there are hungry for attention. Some are ravenous for it, willing to do anything to earn a moment of interaction. As teachers, we try to respond to their hunger – a little extra homework help, a moment together reading a book, a word of praise, an invitation to be our helper for a project – but with a whole class of kids clamoring for attention, we can only do so much for each one or the most part their hunger continues to rumble and erupt into broken toys, scattered crayons, and punched classmates.
When I came home, Angel and Bubba were there to greet me. I could hear the patter of their feet as soon as I walked in the door and by the time I reached the top of the stairs, Angel was peering over the top of the gate, calling out “Hello!” And there was that hunger again, staring at me with eager eyes and a bright smile. Not for dinner (they had just finished that), but for attention. Love.
Often I find that I’m still painfully dismissive of that hunger, reluctant to give up my own freedom and pursuits to pour out the time and attention they need. I’m not their mom, I reason. I have other things to do, work to finish, projects planned, books to read. Yet here I am, grumbling about parents who don’t pay attention to their kids, don’t try to teach them or form their character, and lamenting the shortage of people to give these kids the one on one attention they need, while at the same time retreating into my selfishness and dismissing the opportunity to pour into these kids who share our house. Isn’t that part of why we invited Shelby and her kids into our home, not just to give them a place to live but to bring them into family, to begin to fill the places of neglect and lack? Oh yes, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.
So after dinner, I stayed downstairs. I read books to the kids. We colored together. We made a tent out of a blanket and then played peek-a-book. We ate freshly baked cookies (courtesy of Lindsay) in the kitchen and then cleaned up the toys together before bed.
It’s just a start. I can hear them running around downstairs now as I write, reminding me that to love them well requires ongoing, persistent, daily sacrifice. But this afternoon, as I prepare for work and think again of my kids there, I’m also reminded of the price we pay if we deny that sacrifice of love and the incredible worth of giving time to these little ones.