I have been sick for about a month with an upper respiratory illness that has affected how I hear, sing, and breathe, and it’s been hard to do those things in my work as a preschool music teacher, but mostly, I’ve managed. Yesterday, I had to call in sick for the first time in forever, and today I considered doing the same, because I thought it just wasn’t possible to teach with my head full of goo, and even if it was possible, it might be super gross and not very much fun. Then I remembered my Dad who, when we complained about going to work as teenagers, would say, “That’s why they don’t call it going to fun.” It’s a line I use on my teens now, and they don’t like it anymore than I did then.
I’m glad I taught today. In my second class of the day, there was a fire alarm, and we had to bring a slightly scared group of preschoolers down the stairs of the great big middle school where their program is housed, and out past the parking lot to the grass in the rain. This was not an ideal place for me to hang out while tending a sinus infection, but the kids were nervous and needing tending much more than I did. I looked down and saw my purple wristband which I had grabbed earlier this morning, with a suspicion that I might need it. In honor of my friend, Julie, who passed after a long battle with cancer, it reads ‘Dance-Smile-Love-Live Like Julie’. She was all about other people, about being present to whomever was in front of her and always discounting her own discomfort. She did that for a long time, smiling, consistently, with cancer. Surely I can suck it up with a sinus infection.
It reminds me that my life is not for me. The value of my life goes only as far as I can be of help to another person, and sometimes that means dancing in the rain, as Julie did. In this case, it meant standing very quietly in the rain and holding the hand of a bewildered little girl who did not understand what was happening out there on the wet grass.
My mind knows full well that living for the other is not only why we’re here, but it is the key to living peacefully. Despite this, I don’t know when I will fully incorporate it into my heart and actions. I still get hurt and I’m still selfish and you only have to read this blog to see how much I see life from my own perspective. But I do also try to be a help for others, and the more of that I do, the more I realize that that is precisely the great challenge of my life. To make less of me until I am so transparent that the very Hand of God can touch others through me…that’s the real work. I wonder if I’ll ever get there.