Why Bother To Finish Well?

Why Bother To Finish Well?

Today was the last day of the 2020-2021 school year. Teachers and staff at the little rural school where I work completed 180 days as public school employees. The big yellow buses, full of children, lumbered away with their load while teachers stood on the playground waving good-bye. Little arms flapped back and forth from the bus windows and I heard a few cheerful farewell words , “Good-bye Mrs. Luikens.” The last day of school, though welcomed by most everyone,  is always a little nostalgic.

Traditions

There are a few traditions that lead up to the last day of school. For instance, seniors from the high school who attended our school for their elementary years, revisit its hallways, teachers and the playground. Dressed in their caps and gowns, they peek into their old classrooms and give their previous teachers a hug. It is heartwarming to see these tall smiling eighteen-year-olds bending over to embrace the ones who first taught them how to read and write. Though I’ve not been an instructor long enough to receive one of these warm hugs, when these older students pop into my classroom, I ask them to give my fourth graders some good advice. “Do your work and stay organized,” one smiling young man tells them. Ah, the voice of experience. 

Field day, when our playground is turned into a variety of contests and competitions, is another tradition for the last day of school. Each teacher thinks up a fun contest that any kindergartener or sixth grader will be pleased to play. Then, for two hours, groups of students rollick, romp and run through the games. It is a test of endurance for teachers and kids alike. 

 The final report card goes home on the last day of school. Though teachers are expected to compose comments on these cards for each of their students, I opted out of writing anything. Instead, I called the child’s parents and conversed with them about the strengths and areas of growth that I observed in their child over the last ten months. Every parent loves to talk about their child and grades are not necessarily their greatest concerns. Instead, parents wonder out loud if they are doing a good enough job of parenting their child. Hearing the heart of each of these mothers and fathers reminds me of the privilege I have. Not only do I get to help shape the lives of children, but inspiring and encouraging the parents is part of my job too. 

Yes, it is the last day of school for this year. I wave goodbye to one group knowing that in eighty days, I will do it all over again with a new batch of students. 

Why bother to finish well? No matter what we do, it is worth it to finish well so that we see the value of beginning again.

Why Bother With  Christmas Traditions? 

Why Bother With  Christmas Traditions? 

With seven kids, nothing in life would have been easy for my parents, let alone, celebrating Christmas much the same way every year. 

We’d hang our handmade stockings on the backside of our piano. And though we lacked a fireplace and chimney, my parents assured us that Santa could walk through our front door in order to deliver his goods. 

After midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, we’d leave a treat for Santa on a T.V. tray near the front door; a plate of cut out and carefully frosted cookies, along with a glass of milk.  

And though I tried very hard every year to stay awake listening for sleigh bells and reindeer hoofs on the roof, I never could. But, proof of Santa’s visit never failed to come with Christmas morning. Then I’d see for myself, the cookie crumbs Santa had left on the plate, the bulging stockings and the stack of gifts surrounding the tree, each one bearing the unmistakable signature of Santa.  

But, we could never open our gaily wrapped packages until after everyone was dressed, and our family photo was taken in front of the tinseled draped tree.  

Carrying Out The Traditions

I don’t know how my parents pulled Christmas together every year for their crew of kids, but I’m glad they did. 

Hauling all of us to midnight Mass could not have been a picnic for them. Yet, winter weather, whiny kids and slick streets did not hold them back from this tradition. 

I remember how walking into the candle lit sanctuary on Christmas Eve always shut me up. The soft light from the candles  mesmerized my eyes and made me want to be quiet. The choir sang carols in perfect harmony and their music filled me up with the wonder of Mary, Joseph, Jesus, a star, a manger and some wise men. Maybe for my parents, sitting in a pew at midnight Mass was their way to be in awe, wonder, and peace, even if  just for a few brief moments. 

How they afforded our gifts is a bit of a mystery. Visa had not yet been invented, so there was no such thing as “buy now, pay later.” But we did have grandparents and godparents. So perhaps those packages bearing only Santa’s signature, could  have also come from others who were invested in our family. 

Although Mom looked pretty in an apron, she was not domestic. But that did not keep her from finding a creative way for each of us to have our own homemade Christmas stockings complete with our names, spelled correctly, on each one. Her sister, a handier homemaker than herself,  knitted them for all of us. And those cut out cookies for Santa Clause, they came from our Grandmother, a culinary artist whose talents Mom never did inherit. 

About Those Traditions

The traditions my parents created for their crew of kids, represented the story of who they were as a couple; godly, family oriented, creative and caring. Those virtues are not ones that can be bought, sold, packaged or delivered overnight. They can only be remembered as a personal treasure by one who was lucky enough to receive them. 

Why bother with Christmas traditions? You may never know the true value of their worth until you share one and watch the recipient smile with wonder.