Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Best We Can

"We do the best we can. That's all there is." I've been getting through year-end projects and tests with a little help from Netflix. Working the rubrics and numbers while mostly listening (as opposed to watching) to Raising the Bar, a short-lived series about a group of friends who work either in the public defender's office or the D.A.'s office in New York City. I remember watching one or two episodes when it aired on TNT originally (2008), but I never got into the swing of it, mostly because I was too busy trying to juggle both administrative and teaching responsibilities. That's no life. I see that now in retrospect...

Anyway, the show got me through what can otherwise be very tedious work, entering numbers, checking them two and three times to make sure it all adds up (even though I use an electronic gradebook). Tonight's line that hit the mark sits at the top of this piece: We do the best we can. That's all there is. What hits home about this is the reality of working with people. You do the best you can. Sometimes that doesn't feel like enough, but if it's your best, it's all you can do. And if you're going to have any peace of mind, you have to find a way to live with that without beating yourself up about it.

The lawyers in this show struggle with that. They struggle with doing the right thing for justice' sake or mercy's sake. They struggle to feel good about themselves when they aren't always sure they're doing the right thing. They follow the law, they do their best. But is it right? That happens in teaching, too. You have young people's lives, their futures, in your hands. You do your best. But what if that's not enough? You weigh justice and mercy. You make a choice. You gamble on the future. Their future. Sometimes it pays off. Sometimes you pay. Or worse, they do.

If you do the best you can, that has to be enough. That is all there is. Right?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Be True! Be True! Be True!

I've had Nathaniel Hawthorne on my mind the past 24 hours. Partly because I'm thinking about next school year (already) when I'll be teaching me all-time favorite course: American Literature. He is not only in my lesson plans (The Scarlet Letter, Dr. Heidegger's Experiment, The Birthmark, The Minister's Black Veil, & Rappaccini's Daughter) but also on my summer reading list (The House of the Seven Gables). I happen to think he has a lot to say to contemporary young Christians who are in the midst of their great search for identity and purpose, so we read a fair amount of his works (relatively speaking) whenever I teach American Literature. So I've been thinking about Hawthorne as I'm planning for next year.

But I've been
thinking about him and his stated moral of The Scarlet Letter for another, harder reason ever since Friday afternoon when I discovered my online gradebook had been tampered with. It's a long story that isn't necessary here except to say Hawthorne's "Be true! Be true! Be true!" kept flashing through my mind. I wished that the young people involved had been true, that they hadn't compromised their names and reputations. That they had proven trustworthy and honest. Instead, the consequences of their actions will be drastic, and far-reaching. It makes me sad..

Photos: Nathaniel Hawthorne (c/o Wikipedia) and The Wayside, Hawthorne's home in Concord, MA (from a visit last summer).

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

Sonnets are full of love
Christina Rossetti (1881)

Sonnets are full of love, and this my tome
Has many sonnets: so here now shall be
One sonnet more, a love sonnet, from me
To her whose heart is my heart’s quiet home,
To my first Love, my Mother, on whose knee
I learnt love-lore that is not troublesome;
Whose service is my special dignity,
And she my loadstar while I go and come
And so because you love me, and because
I love you, Mother, I have woven a wreath
Of rhymes wherewith to crown your honored name:
In you not fourscore years can dim the flame
Of love, whose blessed glow transcends the laws
Of time and change and mortal life and death.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

It's All Right

"The year's at the spring,
And day's at the morn;
Morning's at seven;
The hill-side's dew-pearled;The lark's on the wing;
The snail's on the thorn;
God's in his Heaven—All's right with the world!"- Robert Browning, The Year's at the Spring

I've had two new birds at my feeders this past week (that I know of). It was April home leave--the last one of the year (amazing), so I was home during the day when I otherwise wouldn't be. two days in a row, then, there were new birds. They weren't exotic birds, just a brown-headed cowbird and a pair of white-winged doves. But they were new nonetheless, and have been regulars throughout the weekend. All too soon, though, I'll have to shut down my little backyard bird-feeding station while I return to New England for a chunk of the summer. I'm sure they'll manage without me, though =)

Yesterday, I went to a friend's house for lunch and ended up staying until late in the evening. She lives way out in the desert, so it was all new to me. The cactus are in full bloom right now, as are many of the trees, so the normally drab desert is rather colorful. We spent a good share of the afternoon out on the porch soaking up the beauty of the flowers and the birds that enjoy her backyard. She even had a cardinal, something I haven't seen for almost a year now!