We’re all in need

Crises wreak havoc on our lives, prompt us to be our best selves

By George Valadie

Well, that was different!

No new Easter outfits this year; didn’t even need the ones we got last year. We didn’t go to Mass in our pajamas, but we also didn’t need to arrive 30 minutes early to claim a seat.

We didn’t irritate anyone this year by saving seats for our last-minute family members, but then those folks weren’t forced to sit in chairs crammed in the narthex.

It wasn’t entirely unlike the year we were forced to watch the closed-circuit version in the parish spillover room, except for missing the 150 other late parishioners who joined us knee-toknee and elbow-to-elbow.

No aroma of incense this year, no chorus of voices repeating baptismal vows, no choirs to sing Alleluia!

Life felt odd on the home front, too. Instead of spiral-cut ham and deviled eggs, Nancy and I opted for KFC and something called a “butter braid” that one of the kids sold us as a school fundraiser. Thin Mints made up the final course.

I did hide some eggs for Nancy, and she hid some for me, but it would have been more fun with the kids. With all of the little ones staying safe at home, we placed a Xanax inside one and considered that the Golden Egg.

Yes, Nancy and I have been watching Mass. With the miracle of wifi and Apple TV, we could even put Father Mike on the big screen in our living room. It was better than my phone.

But I won’t lie; I’m struggling to feel like I think I’m supposed to. I read the information about “spiritual communion” and prayed the prayers. I understand the need; I just don’t feel it.

I’m not knocking the decision to close the doors; in fact, I wholeheartedly support it. For a Church that supports life, tempting fate and science seems oddly counterintuitive.

To be honest, we’re in our 60s; we likely wouldn’t go if we could — at least not for a while.

I’m not living in fear, but I’m not stupid either.

On our television that has run nonstop, we see politicians on every channel — all forced to make similar decisions.

Called to be the face of their nation, city, or state, they stand front and center to offer information, hope, and leadership. And while I’m generally frustrated with many in that profession, I can easily see how what got said on Monday has been contradicted by Tuesday.

They’ve been wrong, and they’re probably going to be wrong a lot more. But just how exactly do you speak knowingly about the unknown?

How exactly do you know the best path to follow?

Pope or pastor, mayor or minister, how can anyone know, really?

One governor shuts down his state; another does not. One shuts down her schools; another does not. My responsibility is on a far smaller scale, and I’ve struggled to know what is best for just our 400-plus families.

I know for a fact I’ve been wrong quite a few times just in the last month of this experience. Likely more than that.

Harbored here in my satellite office at our kitchen table, while the world out there was spinning seemingly out of control, I’m finding that my ideas of what was best for our students, families, and teachers evolved quickly and dramatically, and they keep evolving, often from one day to the next.

Like any good-intentioned educator, I try to stay abreast of what is new and ever-changing in my field. That’s what we do if we want to offer the sort of education worthy of the mission we serve. But I’m also attempting to discern fad from fact. Both happen a lot in schools.

Of late, my e-mail has been crammed full not only with the world’s news, but also vendors galore reaching out to sell the latest online educational solution they’d like us to buy, interspersed with blogs, commentaries, social-media posts, and news articles posted by people in the education field — all just trying to help.

I spoke with a public school teacher who told me they had been instructed to cease presenting any new material for the final nine-week quarter. Don’t give anyone a zero, try to keep them from forgetting what you’ve already taught them.

I read of a major city system relying on some mix of public television and teacher input in an effort to get it done.

Some schools chose a different path — classes will begin at the normal time, be sure to wear the normal uniform, do the normal homework, take the normal tests.

While the world is normal no longer.

Teachers are doing their best to strike a balance between concern and curriculum while weighing at-home circumstances and emotions they cannot see, much less measure.

As if that isn’t challenging enough, the tornado that swept through our area Easter Sunday night amped up the challenge of at-home learning.

Kids will have a hard time knocking it out of the park if they don’t have power, or Internet, or a roof.

I’ve read many of the theories being spun across social media: God is doing a reset; He picked 2020 because He has perfect vision and wants ours to be better; He’s punishing us for sins upon the planet and its people — sins we’ve been stockpiling in our souls like trash in a landfill.

But I don’t feel any of that either.

I believe in a loving God who, when He does judge, He’ll reserve it for when my time is through. I often say our students are a “work in progress.”

I hope I am, too.

Dear God — If this is you, you’ve got our attention. If it isn’t, we need yours. Please bless those who have lost family, finances, or faith. We’re all in need. Amen.

 

George Valadie is president of Notre Dame High School in Chattanooga.

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