Sunday, October 9, 2016

"Even A Small Star Shines in the Darkness"

This week I cried at work and got two chocolate treats out of it and more.

What made me cry wasn't even that big of a deal.  It was just that it was only Wednesday and it was about the 37th similar problem we'd had that week.  

And, suddenly, the tears overwhelmed me.  You know how when you start to cry, and you really don't want to cry, but the more you try to stop it, the more the tears flow?  Yep, it was that.  

Luckily, I was with two colleagues I trust, and they were so kind and compassionate to me. They listened as I held my head in my hands and said things like:

There are just too many kids.

I don't even have time to build relationships with them.  

They're showing their worst sides to the rest of the building and it looks like they're out of control. 

I'm working so hard, but I'm so overwhelmed.

Maybe I should drop by the coffee shop across the street and apply for that barista job.

Stress and frustration for me gets turned mostly inward.  I blame myself for things not going well.  I hear things in my head like, "You are not up to this.  You're not tough enough. You must not be the one for this job."   I make mountains out of molehills.

I really didn't feel like crying at that moment, and I tried to hold it in, but I felt so good after crying.  

From Psychology Today by Judith Orloff, M.D.:  

"Emotional tears have special health benefits. Biochemist and “tear expert” Dr. William Frey at the Ramsey Medical Center in Minneapolis discovered that reflex tears are 98% water, whereas emotional tears also contain stress hormones which get excreted from the body through crying. After studying the composition of tears, Dr. Frey found that emotional tears shed these hormones and other toxins which accumulate during stress. Additional studies also suggest that crying stimulates the production of endorphins, our body’s natural pain killer and “feel-good” hormones.”

So, the next time someone is about to cry in your presence and you can tell they're trying to stuff it down, encourage them to let it out.  Tell them they'll feel better.  And, then simply hold space for them.  

After I finished crying, my teaching partner walked into the room, and took one look at me and asked what was wrong.  Then, the tears started flowing all over again.  I guess I wasn't done.  

I really do believe that the Universe conspires to lift you out of your darkness when you most need it.  Here's what happened over the next 3 days:  

1.  That day we were having a half-day of staff development.  In the morning we were explaining to the Newcomers why they were going home early. We said we had to go to school and that we are always studying to be better teachers.

One of the more fluent students said, "Why would you need to go to school? You're already so good!" 

2.  That same day, one of our students was leaving to head back to her country.  She is such an exuberant girl, full of life.  In the short time we knew her, we adored her.  She gave me a tight hug and said loudly, "I love you, Miss!"

3.  Then we had our staff development meeting.  I was exhausted from all the crying. I just wanted to melt into the background, but it was the kind of meeting that required full participation.  I knuckled my way through most of it, forcing a smile. 

But, in spite of my morose mood, I started to feel better and enjoy the meeting.  It was about building a positive culture and community in your school and being there for each other- everything I believe in.  

I started to come back to myself.  And, then we did an exercise where some staff were acknowledged for the good work they do in the school and my partner and I were brought up to the front and many lovely things were said.   And, the tears came again.  

4.  And, then the chocolate.  My partner gave me a bar of dark chocolate the next morning with a note that said, "Don't worry, be happy" on it, which was the favorite saying of one of our darlings from last year.

And, the day after that, more chocolate and a card from another thoughtful colleague.  


The other week Donald Trump Jr.  referred to Syrian refugees as Skittles.  He wrote, "If I had a bowl of skittles and I told you just three would kill you. Would you take a handful? That's our Syrian refugee problem."

A man who owns a restaurant in Lonsdale, Minnesota put up a sign that said, "Get out Muslims".

That's a lot of darkness.  That's a lot of blaming a whole group of people for the actions of a few.

But, then there are the small shining stars that come to the rescue, like the little New York boy named Alex, who wrote to President Obama after he saw the photos of a traumatized and shell-shocked 5 year old Syrian refugee in Aleppo.  He asked Obama to go get him so he could join his family.

"We will give him a family and he will be our brother," Alex wrote. "Catherine, my little sister, will be collecting butterflies and fireflies for him. In my school, I have a friend from Syria, Omar, and I will introduce him to Omar. We can all play together."

President Obama related the story of Alex's letter in a speech, "Those are the words of a six-year-old boy — a young child who has not learned to be cynical or suspicious or fearful of other people because of where they come from, how they look, or how they pray. We should all be more like Alex. Imagine what the world would look like if we were. Imagine the suffering we could ease and the lives we could save."

And, for me, the callous Skittles comment and the hateful sign about Muslims are pushed into the back by the brightness of Alex's light.  


That same week, one of our students gave a presentation on her country of Syria.  Towards the end of her talk she showed pictures of before and after the war.  It's shocking, devastating.  If you've never looked at the photos, you should, because then you'll understand why there are so many refugees fleeing for their lives.  

One of the boys in the class raised his hand and said, "I'm so sorry for what happened in your country."

Another said, "We're all the same.  No one wants war.  We all want peace."  

So young and yet so wise.  So much light amidst so much darkness.  


We had a long conversation with one of our students recently after school.  She was really upset about some things and we were trying to comfort her and her friend was there with us too.  She was also trying hard to hold back tears and it didn't work for her either.  

At one point, her friend ran to her locker and retrieved her notebook.  She flipped to a page with many sentences and quotes she had translated and pointed excitedly to one and showed her friend.  

She had to look closely since her eyes were clouded with tears, but she smiled and laughed when she read it.  

"Even a small star shines in the darkness."

Sometimes on really dark and cloudy nights, you have to search and search for a single star, but if you are patient, you'll find at least one.  

Sometimes you have to squint through your tears to find the small shining star.  

And, that is the Universe telling you not to give up.

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