My Empty Classroom

I’m sitting in my empty classroom on the last day of lecture. It’s lunchtime, and I am alone with my thoughts. Alone with the memories of the quarter. An hour ago the class was full of students, who, for the first time since I’ve taught this curriculum, made one big group to do the final reflection exercise. They pulled the chairs out and formed a big group, reflecting on the quarter, writing advice to the newbies to come in the Fall.

The community these students create is amazing.

And yet…

School is a scary place. I am so tired of current events where every other week I am bringing another school shooting up. This time last week it was at Seattle Pacific University, a place I interned as a counselor a few years ago. I sit in my empty classroom thankful that I can, unlike most of the classes here, lock the door and think…what would I do if it happened here?

I work with students on the edge of society. The misfits, dropouts, recovering heroin junkies, the students that many professors see as ‘throwaways.’ I love them all dearly. On our last day of class I tell them this. I tell them that I have never lost a student to suicide and that I care deeply about them and would be sad if they were not around to complete the program. I look them in the eye and tell them they are valuable and worthy and not throwaways.

I hope that I’m not just blowing smoke at them. That my words back up the actions I take throughout the quarter. I hope they can feel the love. I hope that they all succeed in their lifetime goals.

I hope than they embrace love and not violence.


Hell in a Handbasket?

II’m not really into fear-mongering. I’ve lived a life of relative privilege, not having to face violence and destruction on a daily basis. And while I grew up with a fundamentalist idea that the world was going to hell in a handbasket, getting worse and worse toward eventual return of “the lord jesus christ” in a rapture, as an adult I have mostly moved away from that idea. There is violence and fear and war and destruction. And there are good people, amazing new discoveries and projects that have brought people together in amazing and love-filled ways. I don’t know if we’re about even, but I don’t know that we’re any worse off than 50 years ago.

What I do know, though, is that there is more media and technology and cameras in people’s bedrooms to get a really good look at the violence outside and inside of our hearts. I wish there was an equal amount of media around the good and loving pieces, but just like ‘sex sells,’ violence also sells. It keeps us interested.

So today I was surprised at myself thinking, “what kind of world will Potamus grow up in?” It’s sparked by this rash of gun violence here in little ol’ Seattle. I could joke about our passive aggressiveness and smiling into our lattes in drizzly overcast weather has finally gotten to us, and we’ve snapped, but it feels too fresh. Today I worked from home and learned that my office was even on lockdown, there was some threat, which puts even me on edge. As a crisis counselor I work daily with kids and teens and families on the edge, using coping skills that could hurt others more than it could help them. Even hours post 9/11 I didn’t worry so much for MY safety, just sadness for the people involved.

But it’s hit closer to home, now. Innocent bystanders have been killed. Is our city, our world, going to hell in a handbasket? And if it is…what can I do about it, as I look at my sleeping cherub and want a better world for him than what we’re experiencing today.