Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Winding the Clock

“As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness...Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.”    -E.B. White

A teacher friend of mine posted these words last night with reference to the turmoil occurring presently in Baltimore. Earlier in the evening, after I’d made a call on social media requesting prayers for loved ones in the affected area, a conversation about the unrest struck up between a former high school classmate and a former high school student of mine. Inviting deliberation on the turbulence had not been my intention and when it began, I felt a responsibility to moderate the conversation, or, at least, to acknowledge the words under my wall post. This morning, I hesitated but, as I had stated I’d do, I deleted the entire post. I wanted to avoid the hurt some of my other friends or former students might have felt in reading the remarks. I didn’t believe they were words that could help the situation in Baltimore. Although I believe that the verbal expression of conflicting ideas is often healthy, I didn’t want these words on my wall today. I had allowed them to remain overnight, had acknowledged them, given time for discussion, but now I was putting away the post and commentary. 

Still, something continued to nag at me. I’ve been reading, reflecting, absorbing, weighing the news reports, videos, and editorial commentaries. Yet, although I am a teacher who daily moderates and facilitates classroom discussions on a wide variety of topics, until now I wasn’t feeling ready to speak on the latest venue of outrage over the killing of black men by the police. Do I have any responsibility to speak to this? What should I say if my students look to me for guidance? I pondered these questions awaiting the subject to come up in the classroom. Often my teenage students pull me into discussions on our world, something I feel is a natural extension of their learning, but this didn’t happen yesterday or today.

But I’m ready now. Reading the E.B. White quote above, I’m finally nodding. White’s words remind me of what I most need to continue to do. THIS is what I believe is my role. THIS is my responsibility. THIS is what I am. Although I sometimes stumble at the task, at the very heart of my core, I’m a clock winder-upper. 

I do have remarks to make which hopefully can soar far above this week’s news of the violence in Baltimore, the earthquake devastation in Nepal, or the unfathomable power of avalanche conditions at Mount Everest. And here they are: I wind the clock not only on Sunday mornings but every morning when I push aside the bed covers that keep me warm overnight, as I place my feet on the carpet of my bedroom floor. I wind the clock whenever I hold back tears that sting--over the difficulty of being part of lives, young and old, that struggle to understand our world--its pain and confusion, its intolerance, injustice, and ignorance. I wind the clock when apathy or diversion sets in to replace despondence and defeat. Each morning’s step out of bed is a pledge I make to hold onto hope. It doesn’t matter whether I am preparing for a school day with my teens in Gray, Maine or whether I am making my way downstairs to greet my 15 year old son who is on the sofa watching another series on Netflix, or whether I am preparing another post on Facebook. I wind the clock to contribute to order, to remain steadfast, to offer opportunities for lessons, to encourage perspective, to welcome conversation, to encourage understanding, to share the good, to strengthen, to fortify. 

My words, whether written or spoken, aren’t perfect. They are perfectly imperfect but tomorrow is another day. I wind the clock of hope. May this contagion spread.

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