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December 4, 2013

I Remember Their Courage. ~ Nora Neill

I do not feel cut out for this today.

I cannot read another post from my students relaying their trials, losses, pain. I cannot hold it.

Her father died.

His brain was traumatized by war.

She has anxiety.

Dyslexia. Depression. Asperger’s. ADD. PTSD.

Her boyfriend might try to kill her.

He was incarcerated.

She was homeless.

They were told they’re not good enough.

They tell me their public secrets and how they fester on the inside.

They are strong and in this moment I cannot be. I am happy to be far away, hiding behind a computer, crying in the quiet privacy of my own home.

Because what do I say when a student tells me how cruel the world has been? How racist? How sexist? How uncaring?

Thank you for sharing your story with me, I write. You are brave. I am here with you. Now we’re imprinting each other’s lives.

Over and over again, I hear “family comes first,” but family has asked too much, given too little; brought broken hearts to me, almost taken some away. We are all trying hard in the face of it. Here, to “Make a better life.”

Working, in school and at jobs, trying to get by so they can move beyond survival. This is not a job for me: a calling, a love, a perfectionist obsession. What more can I give?

Our classroom walls hold us like a hug, defining our space, a little uncomfortable for them, a little too familiar for me. I try to be compassionate and together we try to do this a different way; a way that might not be so familiar.

Please stay. Come back. I want to see you. You can do this if you’re here. It’s all about practice, showing up.

I invite them to join this world. They laugh.

“So good to see you,” I say. “Where have you been? Is everything okay?”

She arrives. Says hi to a friend. I sit and we chat—about writing, school, life. She will move on soon, to bigger dreams on the horizon.

“It might sound creepy, but I want you on my shoulder, helping me along while I write,” she tells me, smiling.

I’m there, I think. There is nothing that will erase this moment, this pure gratitude.

Sometimes when I’m struck by their loss, I remember their unfaltering bravery and I am lucky. I get to see their past and present, unlike so many others who will teach them on this journey.

I carry their stories with me. I am a mere facilitator, commentator, observer of their great quest.

I hope they know they are all heroes.

They have given me a gift: their lives, honesty, effort. They have shown me the triumph of change, the kindness of appreciation.

They push me forward so I must continue, even when I think I can’t go on.

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Assistant Editor: Jamie Khoo/Editor: Bryonie Wise

{Photo: Emma Neill}

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