By Elizabeth Prata
I have worked in a school almost exclusively my entire adult professional life. I was a teacher, a daily substitute, a long-term substitute, and now I’m a teacher’s aide.
I love kids very much. They are my favorite people. I love how they are so open, and loving, and funny. I love their quirks, and their knock-knock jokes, and their earnest attempts to please. I love how when they arrive at school they’re all dressed and combed and tucked in. By the end of the day they’re a wreck, ketchup stains on the shirt, shoes untied, hair bow gone, things spilling out of unzipped backpack as they plod to the door at car riders. Life hits little kids hard.
I love helping them in any way throughout the day. When a friend hurts their feelings, I cheer them when they cry. To see that smile break through is heart-melting. When they struggle with tying their shoe, or can’t open a mustard pack at lunch, or when the door is too heavy, I can help them. When they need help sounding out a word or adding some numbers, I can help them. I can smooth their path throughout the day, in big or little ways, as they contend with all the little-kid obstacles in front of them.
After the two-week Christmas break or on the first day of school, when we haven’t seen our kids for a long while, it’s exciting to be reunited.
They come thru the door from the car or the bus, down the long hallway, and they spot us on duty. They start running. They throw themselves full bore around our waist and fling their arms around us. We hug back, and look down into their little faces, smiling ear to ear. “I love you!” “I missed you!” we say. We bend down to hear all their little stories about the puppy they got or the tooth they lost. Hugs pile-up as the momentum of the kids streaming back into the school increases, and we love it. We eagerly look down the hall to see the next child come through the door, listening for the door squeak to know it’s opening again. The relief we feel when we see they are safe and happy and back in our school again is a precious feeling.
When the National Emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, it was a surprise. The kids left school on a Thursday in advance of a three-day weekend due to Friday being a Teacher Work Day. But then the leaders decided to close school for disinfecting and to comply with guidelines for no gathering, so as not to spread the virus. We’d said goodbye on Thursday like usual, but then it felt like we fell off a cliff. We took for granted that we would see them again a few days later. We cling to the school year calendar as a given, in cement. But it wasn’t. For the first time, it was an unexpected closure, and not for a snow day.
Had we known we would not see our children for over a month, would we have given a more fervent goodbye? Looked a little longer in their eyes as we said ‘see you later!’ Hugged them a little tighter? We have regrets. We can’t wait to see them again.
One thing that is common to all of us educators and bus drivers is that we MISS THE KIDS. We long for the day when we are reunited and see their little smiles and know they are back into a routine. Kids thrive on routine. We want them to thrive and learn, and know they are loved by the other adults in their life.
OK, all this earnest emotion and angst and feels is for a reason. If we who work with children feel so eager to see ‘our kids’ again, imagine how Jesus feels. He is a Father, waiting to reunite with his children. He is a Teacher, we are His kids, and He is longing to see us, be with us.
In Matthew 23:37 Jesus lamented over Jerusalem, saying He had longed to gather His children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings..
The Bridegroom anticipates His bride,
For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you. (Isaiah 62:5).
He is waiting for us until that time, (Hebrews 10:13). He is expectantly waiting for the Father to say ‘go get your Bride’. And when God does, the picture of the Father in the parable of the Prodigal Son comes to mind,
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. (Luke 15:20).
He runs to us.
He is going to rejoice over us with gladness; He will quiet us by His love; He will exult over us with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17; Isaiah 62:5; Jeremiah 32:41).
No matter how lonely you feel in your place during this isolation time, remember that as much as you long to see your adult kids, grandkids, colleagues, extended family, students…Jesus longs to see you even more! He anticipates that great reunion, when we will look up into His face as the children we are, and eagerly tell Him of our lost tooth or our new puppy, and He indulgently has all the time in the world to listen, love, and be with us.