Before schools in my area were closed and shuttered to E-Learning due to the COVID-19 crisis, I agreed to substitute in an 8th grade Science classroom.
What was I thinking?! I had resolved to only substitute in music classrooms, and mostly elementary.
BUT, when you get a personal phone call, rather than automated, from the secretary of the school at 8:00am, you know they are desperate. And when you are speaking to a live person, it is much harder to say “no.”
That is how I ended up accepting a position in an 8th grade Science classroom for a day. It has been 30 years since I left my middle school chorus classroom to stay at home with my one-year old daughter! And I never went back to middle school after discovering the joys of elementary-age kids and their love of music.
Just imagine my trepidation at entering an environment filled with hormonal adolescents who think they are almost adults. The butterflies….the dry mouth….the shaking…..Give me my Kindergarteners any day over that!
Because I said “yes,” I found myself scrambling to get out the door to be there at 8:30am. I grabbed some index cards on the way out. Index cards? While brushing my teeth, an idea “popped” into my head. Literally! Why not get to know these 8th graders a bit, you know, establish a bit of rapport? Ask them 5 simple questions and ask them to respond briefly on an index card:
- Tell me something interesting about your family.
- What do you like to do in your free time? (favorite sport or hobby)
- Name a favorite song or type of music you like.
- Tell me something new you have learned in science class this year.
- What is one of your biggest fears?
I walked in with my index cards, took a deep breath, prayed a simple “Help me, Jesus” prayer and jumped in. Getting acquainted with these 8th graders proved to be eye-opening and refreshing. They weren’t nearly as scary as I had envisioned!
After opening with these 5 simple questions, and sharing my own answers, we dug into the science work for the day, a lab posted by their teacher on their Chrome book. While they worked on their lab, I briefly scanned their index card responses and made note of the most interesting and popular responses, which I would share anonymously (no names mentioned) at the end of class.
The students were very intrigued to hear their classmate responses. And we all learned a lot about each other through these questions. Maybe some things they already knew, but the last question? “What is one of your biggest fears?” That went deeper.
At least for some. There were a few silly or surprising responses to this question: spaghetti noodles, pineapple on pizza, lady bugs, eyes, cats, clowns, Fortnight (video game) dying. Really?
And there were your typical fears: spiders, snakes, falling, heights, needles, roller coasters, deep water, enclosed spaces, plane crashes, the dark, the Coronavirus.
And then there were the responses that stopped me in my tracks: to always be sad, parents’ dying, losing someone you love, father becoming alcoholic again, losing my faith, not doing anything important in society, dying alone, dying, not knowing if I’m going to heaven or hell, my friends’ not being in heaven with me.
And then this: being alone.
Are you afraid of being alone? Am I? Is that why, while in social isolation, we have spent so much time on social media, watching the news, and binge-watching Netflix shows? Are we afraid of the silence, of being with ourselves?
Lane and I have watched a show on the History Channel called “Alone.” It’s a reality TV show where 10 people are voluntarily dropped off, each alone, in their own “wilderness” area. They are challenged to survive “alone” as long as possible, surviving on creating their own shelter and finding their own food and water source. The only contact with the outside world is a phone to call the rescue team, if they decide to “tap out” or have a medical emergency.
These people are truly “alone.” No internet. No social media. No FaceTime. No Netflix. No human contact. A.L.O.N.E.!
In the past year and two months, we have all had many fears to face, and one of them may have been simply the fear of being alone. The fear that no one actually cares about me or even remembers that I exist.
I remember how alone I felt when my late husband, Kevin, died. As much as I need “alone-time” to recharge, I didn’t need it all the time! So, I learned to reach out to others when I was overwhelmed with the silence. AND more importantly, I cultivated a deeper relationship with Jesus, because he was the ONLY ONE who would never leave me or forsake me:-).
As a Christ-follower, I took comfort then (and still do) in the thought that I am never truly alone. And I know at the very mention of Jesus’ name, He will bring peace and His presence.
And He is truly the only one who knows all of me (even the number of hairs on my head), sees me even when I’m alone, cares deeply about me, gives me hope for the future, and has a purpose and plan for my life.
We are not meant to live life alone.
Now that some of the COVID-19 restrictions are being loosened and lifted, we have the opportunity to re-connect with not only those we love, but those who for too long have felt utterly A.L.O.N.E.
It’s time to remind our loved ones, our neighbors, and even strangers we meet, that they are not alone. Give them the gift of touch and your presence, and remind them their life has meaning and their Creator is crazy about them!
I love you because you first loved me and gave your life for me. You are kind and gracious, compassionate and forgiving, merciful and loving. You bless me beyond what I deserve. Thank you for seeing me, hearing me, knowing me, delighting in me, designing me with a purpose, giving me a future and a hope, and caring about every little detail of my life. With you, I know I will never be alone. I don’t need to be afraid.
To God be all the glory, Karen Renae