Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Flourishing: Conversations You Never Want to Have

It's a tough world. You teach your kids to be kind, to pray, to work hard; you steer them through friendships and stresses; you feed and clothe and love them -- and you thrill to see them thrive and blossom with the good outside influences of educators and peers.

And then you have to tell one of them that their favorite teacher -- heck, let's face it, your favorite teacher they've ever had -- has been arrested and, if found guilty, will likely never see freedom again. They've had this teacher for the past two years in a row, and this final, third year was supposed to be the capstone of their musical experience. Your particular child -- a shy daughter -- got the guts up to participate not only in the audition process for the small, exclusive,  8th-grade chamber choir (and made it), but also for a statewide vocal audition and an application to the local performing arts charter school for high school next year. She has found a love for her choir experiences that you didn't see in her other subjects (even her other band and piano lessons), and that has been a phenomenal influence on her happiness in those tough middle school years.

This incredibly gifted teacher, who has long been one of the foundations linking the whole school community, has been 'on leave' for most of the current school year, leaving kids like my daughter stranded without the mentorship they counted on for the upcoming auditions and applications. The kids have been wondering, in vain, what 'family emergency' could possibly keep their beloved teacher from being there to help them succeed. They've been cycling through a string of substitutes and movies in class. In a heartbreaking turn of events yesterday, after an actual arrest was made, the school principal was able to let the students and families know about the ongoing investigation and criminal charges pending against this man we all thought we knew.

It's just not something we ever expect, not so close, though we know empirically that abuse and molestation are happening all over, in all classes and walks of life. I'm grateful for a school system that has, overall, been safe and productive for my own kids; and I'm grateful for the moral principles that they've already internalized that help protect and comfort them in times like these. There are plenty more kids who face obstacles far beyond the scope of this one, and I realize our blessings. But I'm shaken.

S. and I had originally thought not to tell her the details, because we'd rather she remember the good, at least for this year -- but then we realized how public the announcement was and the inevitability that she learn it at school without us anyway. She's handling it OK, but I hope she never sees the mug shot, doesn't go looking in the news. That's what really got to me. It's so hard to fathom, to connect the two pictures -- the grim-faced man in front of a police camera, and the charismatic, talented guy we've known up until this point. His own daughter currently attends the same school, is in my daughter's grade, has been attending at least so far this year. I can't imagine what she and her family are facing, either. The horrible tragedy hits in so many directions.

What a wonderful husband I have. What willing, affectionate, creative kids I have. What safety and comfort I enjoy. It sinks deep at Thanksgiving time in any case, but this latest event throws real highlights on the incredible, divine gifts that have come into my life. I feel deeply, deeply indebted to the gospel and belief of Jesus Christ for so much of the good that has been bedrock to me and my family. Bless you all, and happy Thanksgiving!

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