Playground Joy

The speaker at my graduation was an alum of the college who had finished his degree 20 years previously, and had recently donated millions of dollars to the institution to help pay for a new residence hall. Although I’m sure he spoke about many things, what stood out was his focus on all the ways that life had changed since his graduation two decades before. The economy was worse. There were more international threats (including those that had led to 9/11 a few years before). There was higher unemployment, especially among the young. More people were struggling with or abandoning any spiritual faith. And the environment was struggling in ways never before experienced. Happy graduation!!!

In 2018, many of those descriptions are still true of our world. And some are even worse. So it’s essential to find those experiences, individuals, or just moments that can provide the hope to work through the needs of the world toward something more. Walking into a classroom is one of the ways I find that hope. I love working alongside students who are trying to find their way, while I’m trying to do the same. This past year included my first opportunities to teach traditional college students, after many years working with adult students. It was a different type of challenge and learning, and one that I am excited to dive into again this fall.

Each of my students was and is special to me, for the sake of this post, I’m just going to share about one. The one who responded first on my Facebook post when I asked for suggestions on what I should write about this week.

I can 100% imagine Anne as the one on the playground at age 6 or 66 who would be pushing her legs hard to try and get her swing over the bar at the top. She is a bundle of spritely joy and energy that often could not be contained in her chair, let alone our classroom, for over an hour in class. When I offered to once let her leave the classroom via the window, I should have known that she would take me up on the offer (and that the next week I would have to remind her that we need to use the door for class). She was always asking questions and trying to figure out a new way to connect what we were discussing in class to the brightly colored ways she saw the world. I could seriously imagine there being a cartoon based on this young woman someday where she saves the world on a weekly basis along with some talking animal sidekicks (and the occasional assist from Harry Potter or Loki).

This paragraph is just one part of one student from one class, but doesn’t she make you believe that the world could be great? If we were each working to advocate for the Annes, Jasons, Montels, Katelyns, Janettes, Anthonys, Lindas, and Tabis, how would that change our little corners of the global playground?

Last night I got a rejection message that was a kick in the gut. This morning I’m focusing on all of the doors that have not closed, and wondering which one will lead to the next student of joy.

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