Leaving a legacy of milkshakes
Posted on May 20th, 2013
esterday, a visiting priest spoke on the legacy we leave behind.
It’s certainly the time of year for it. This would seem to be the season for leave-taking. Graduations aside, I feel like I am hip-deep in news of job changes for friends who, having taken stock of their current situations, have wadded everything into a bag and are shimmying quietly out of the nearest window for better prospects elsewhere. And while The Three aren’t donning cap and gowns any time soon, the end of the school year always gets me a little verklempt as I reflect on just how far we’ve travelled in a year, what’s gone for good and what lives now instead in the hearts and minds of my children.
We’re too close to it to make much sense of it now. The picture of emotional growth and classroom experience is just a mess of dots and splashes, and with the last days still unspooling in front of us, there are still drop cloths on the floor around us. Everyone—students and teachers alike—will still be madly painting through that last bell. I know teachers who will part from their students a little heartbroken; there was still so much left that they wanted to do with them they will tell you.
But here’s what I think: it is this hunger to serve that marks the beginning of all of the best legacies. There are all kinds. Whether we know it or not, we are bumping into the work others have done with children either as parents or as teachers every day. We leave marks on their hearts and minds and, for better or worse, they are released out into the world to tell the truth as they’ve learned it from the adults around them.
When Marcel was in the third grade, I walked with his class back from the school’s community garden alongside a student he hadn’t had in class since kindergarten. As we caught up, the child began to relate her impressions of her collected school experiences as only a nine-year-old can: as fast as she could manage to get the words out.
“My teacher last year was mean,” she told me quietly.
“I know,” I told her because, why not? She was right and I wasn’t on anyone’s payroll.
So when I contemplate legacy—yours, mine, ours, theirs—I come back to that short walk back to the third grade classroom with someone else’s child. And I think that in doing whatever work we are charged with in the lives of our children, no matter what, we must devote what small bit of energy we have left from getting everyone where they’re supposed to be and making sure the lines are straight and no one’s hurting anyone else too badly, to being kind to others and ourselves. We must try to remember to err on the side of making milkshakes before bedtime and taking a breath before we yell and letting everyone play outside for 10 more minutes because the sun is still up, for crying out loud.
Because, in a way, it’s their legacy, too. They’re the ones who end up carrying it, after all.∗