For most of us, the last week marked a painful anniversary. There has been a meme going around different social media sites stating that “last year this time was our last normal week and no one knew it.” This is a fitting statement as in the United States we are coming up on the one-year anniversary of how the pandemic’s formal arrival has shifted our lives long-term.
A year of changes brings a year of adaptations. How blessed we are to serve our God, who is unchanged in His love, care, and provision for us. He even provides ways for us to spread His love and care to others through loving our neighbors intentionally and consistently in various contexts. As Sunday School teachers, classroom teachers, youth leaders, and children’s ministry champions, we have the chance to engage cross-culturally with our students and young people, while adding richly to our own cultures, in response to the gift of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
A pitch-black street familiar to me is illuminated by streetlights and the warm glow of headlights from early-riser commuters. I live alongside one of the major highways that serves as a corridor to three of the five boroughs of New York City. I find myself comforted on early mornings like this when I can sit, think, and listen to the lull of driving cars before the highway becomes a cacophony of honks and construction drilling. I do like the sound of cars and trucks, and as an urbanite I feel at home when I am certain there is a bustle around me.
The wintertime gets a great deal of hate because of the cold weather, the nasty storms, the lack of sunlight, and what seems an overly long length. One thing most people do enjoy is the day of “first snow.” If you live in a place where snow is a regular occurrence or grew up in such a place, you may remember snow days! These were some of the most joyous times—that in 2020 (with the advent of remote learning) many students will not experience. Gone are the days of eating cereal while watching your favorite shows and spending the day sledding, having snowball fights, and generally vegging out—after shoveling, of course!
It was during Advent when I witnessed my first infant Baptism. The season of Advent has powerful imagery for me in the Christian faith I share with so many of my brothers and sisters because it was during this season that I came to the Lutheran Church with my family for the first time. I was at the young age of 12, and my parents had been searching for a new church home.
When was the last time you failed at something? Did you truly fail or just stop trying?
In my work, I ask students to recall failure as part of our now-common virtual interactions. When middle schoolers or high schoolers answer, they usually reflect on a major test or quiz. When college students answer, their responses are more mixed, as experiences at that age are more diverse. Some speak of an entire course, while others venture into explorations of failed attempts at making a team or becoming a part of a group. We then talk about what we learned from failures and how weaving past mistakes into our approach can equip us for future success. These are all from a perspective we see commonly spoken about in our world today.
How long is your list of cancellations this year? Each month of 2020 seems to try to bring back one thing we lost and also takes away something many of us were looking forward to. A majority of my day is spent helping high school students who are transitioning to college. One of the most disappointing pieces of news that I have to deliver over and over again is telling a student that he or she waited too long to take advantage of an opportunity. Yes, deadlines are clearly stated, but additionally, some things “run out” if you do not jump on them quickly enough. In my job, this happens most often when classes fill up, when dorms reach capacity, or when scholarship money is used up. As if these missed opportunities were not difficult enough, many students in 2020 are also encountering cancellations from the world as well—through no direct fault of their own. We struggle in this together.
This fall will be full of muffled sounds. The voices of our students will be muffled by the masks they wear. Teachers in face shields will project even more than usual to get their points across. Socially distant lunchtimes may prove themselves to be more quiet—or possibly louder! Professional development and faculty meetings via Zoom where administrators and teachers remain on mute only until ready and allowed to speak may continue as the norm for a while. Staff, faculty, and students returning to campuses nationwide will be separated by glass shields and assigned seating. Our class time, work time, and downtime will continue to look different.
A diverse classroom fosters a safe space for launching outreach. Our schools serve as outposts to the community, often providing our neighbors’ first interactions with God’s people. The “diversity” buzzword is not new to education, as many teachers, administrators, and homeschool parents have been working to incorporate diversity into the classroom for years.
Our new normal will not feel normal. In many states across the country, local governments are rolling out reopening plans. This all coincides with school letting out for “summer”, which feels different than it ever has before. After months of being at home completing a half year’s coursework through remote learning during a pandemic . . . what happens now?
One thing that helps us to remain grounded as worries abound is this: This is not God’s first pandemic! We follow behind the One who goes before us, and He is our ever-present help in time of need.