My mom was an elementary school teacher. She started teaching after she graduated college, at 21, and retired when she was in her late 50s. She loved her students, and she was excellent at her job. It was most definitely her calling in life.
Once a teacher, always a teacher though, and she has worked with all 4 of her grandchildren during their early years. They are all avid readers and super-smart (I am biased, of course, since two of her 4 grandchildren are my children).
Currently, she plans lessons using the North Carolina standards for kindergarten so she can supplement what my younger nephew does in his one day of face-to-face learning and support him on the days he is at home.
“I planned more than he could possibly do in one day, like every teacher does when they lesson plan,” she told me this afternoon when she visited my children on the way home from keeping my nephew until his parents and older brother got home from school.
Between you and me, I am certain that this woman will teach, in some capacity, until the day she dies.
Years ago, after I started my own teaching job (my sister is a teacher, too, as are 4 of my mom’s nieces – I’m not saying my mom had something to do with all of that, but who’s to say she didn’t…) and saw how much time it took outside the classroom to plan lessons and score work, I realized something: I have little to no memories of mama creating lesson plans or grading students’ work. Obviously she did both, but I have few memories of it.
I asked her about it once. She told me that she did it after school before she came home or at night after my sister and I went to bed.
When we were awake, she gave her time to caring for her family – cooking, cleaning, helping with homework, doing things together as a family. Her work was secondary to us.
She gave herself up for us. In humility, she counted the needs of her husband and children as more significant than her own needs. She looked not only to her own interests but to ours as well.
I had to live this out this past Monday. It was the first day of school, and our school district is doing what our governor calls “Plan B.” Students go to school one day a week for face-to-face learning with their teachers. The other four days of the week they learn virtually from home. The preschool where I worked the past two years closed in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic and elected not to reopen this fall, so I am home helping my children do their online learning. Monday, my children started 6th and 2nd grades on their computers.
It was hectic. Tedious. Frustrating.
We sat at our little round table in the kitchen and dove in. Both kids had their computers out. Although I had my own work to do to get my online class ready (I was able to pick up a course to teach online as an adjunct for a college), I knew better than to try to do anything. I knew that the day had to belong to my children.
I sat between them and literally went back and forth helping them figure out how to navigate their pages, find their assignments, learn how to do them, and submit them.
I wasn’t even upset. I knew it had to be done. The only way the first day of school had a chance to be anywhere near smooth or successful was for me to put aside what I wanted to do and focus on helping them get going.
It was painstaking. At times it was nerve wracking. But it was what had to be done. And it was what countless parents, grandparents, older siblings, aunts, uncles, close family friends, or nannies did on Monday and will continue to do until we get these kids settled into a routine of online learning so they can work more independently.
What we did – what we do on a daily basis for our children, our spouses, our co-workers, our friends, the person behind us in the checkout line at the store that we let skip us because they’re holding 5 items and we have a cart full – is a demonstration of love – agapao.
And this is how God instructed us to show love to each other.
Ephesians 5:2 – And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (ESV, emphasis added).
When we give ourselves up for other people, when we consider others’ needs and interests as more important than our own, when we outdo each other in showing honor, when we count others as more significant than ourselves, when we look not only to our own interests but also to the interests of others, we show love to those people. We act out love. We love the way God loved – or as closely as we are able to in our humanness.
I’ve been studying the biblical concept of love and HOW to show love for over a month now. God has shown me things, and I pray that He will help me put what He’s taught me into practice. I don’t just want to talk about it; I want to live it and do it – even to the people who are hard to love.
Talk to God. Ask Him to show you how to love other people. Ask Him to show you ways to give yourself up for the people around you. Then, as soon as He shows you, act on it right away before the enemy can talk you out of it. It might be something big, or it might be something small. It might cost you money or time or energy, but God has promised to use our acts of love to soften hearts and bring people to Himself. And He promises a blessing on those who bless others.
What can you do to show love to someone today?