It's part of our world, this violence, says Laura Boggess in response to the next chapter in Gerald May's Wisdom of Wilderness.
I sit at my keyboard, wish for something profound to say, to add to a hard but good conversation. Nothing comes.
Instead I remember a morning practice, born in desperation, when ordinary word-prayer seemed powerless to help me meet the days in an urban classroom that had no crayons, no paper, no math books, one tiny shelf of picture books, no teaching assistant, 30 kids (many with serious behavior issues).
I don't recall what started it exactly, the wordless prayer. Was it the day after Calvin, my psychotic student, dangled himself out the window, 200 feet above the empty blacktop playground? Or maybe it was the week the principal punched Maurice and Maurice's mother screamed and overturned a huge conference table against my pregnant belly. Perhaps it was when Ivan punched Billy (again), leaving blood on the floor. Could it have been after I shouted at the class (again) and emptied the garbage can onto linoleum and told them to pick it up, pick it all up?
I don't remember. What comes back is the desperation of those moments. I wasn't the only teacher shocked at the violence and deprivation in the school, shocked at how far I could be pushed emotionally. Any given day you could hear shouting up and down the halls. Violence begetting violence.
And then came the peach blush roses. One morning I walked out of my apartment, and a light sweet raspberry scent met my senses. I leaned down for as much time as I could spare from my impending commute and smelled those roses again and again. Their sweetness melted some kind of sorrow and hardness that had begun to be a constant companion. In my mind, I took them with me, a prayer for the day, a solace.
It would be nice to say I became Teacher of the Year after that. Or always compassionate. I still struggled. But the struggle changed. When violence would rise in the classroom, or even in my own heart, I would remember the roses, their soft blush, their raspberry scent. Each time I was faithful to remember them, the moments went better. God was in the roses, I think, giving me a wordless prayer, a way.
Blush Roses photo, by L.L. Barkat.