At the end of March, I became a PASS (Providing Academic and Self Esteem Support) volunteer for two students at Charles Town Middle School in Jefferson County, WV. This was an opportunity that I had talked about with a friend before retiring a year ago, but I wasn’t able to attend the training until after the first of this year.
After discussion with the school guidance counselor and gaining permission from each student’s guardian, I began meeting with them individually in the school building once a week for forty minutes beginning in April. I was fortunate to have taught each of these students while still employed at CTMS so the “icebreaking” had already been done for us.
As with any middle schooler, getting them to talk about school (or anything else for that matter) can be challenging. I just tried to be present and open to whatever arose in our conversations. Sometimes we played Scrabble, Yahtze, or the card game War, but their favorite seemed to be Uno.
I was told, and knew from my past experience as their teacher, that their private/home lives were difficult and challenging to say the least. But you would have never known that if you saw us giggling uncontrollably while playing Uno.
With the school year ending, last Tuesday was my last time within the program to meet with the seventh grader and my last time permanently with the eighth grader—the PASS program is not in place in the high school where this student will attend.
As I walked to the parking lot feeling kind of blue, I thought “did I really make any kind of a difference in this student’s life?”
Between this student’s absences and my late start, we only met five or six times—a total of maybe four hours—240 minutes—14,400 seconds in a lifetime full of disappointment, discouragement, and disillusionment.
What difference could I have possibly made?
Little did I know that God would answer that question at church on Sunday . . .
“There are going to be times when we don’t know if we are making a difference.”
. . . said my pastor in his message. He was preaching on 1 Corinthians 15:51-58, particularly verse 58, “So, my dear brothers, stand firm and immovable, always doing the Lord’s work as vigorously as you can, knowing that united with the Lord your efforts are not in vain.”
A friend recommended the book It’s Not Supposed to be This Way by Lysa Terkeurst to me and the following quote seems to get at the heart of what Paul is saying to the Corinthians and what my Pastor was saying on Sunday. “Understand that no time showing up and bringing compassion to another human is ever a waste of time. Rather, it’s our chance to bring context, purpose, and meaning to all of life.”
That’s it, isn’t it? The meaning, the difference we make in another’s life, is in the here and now trusting God with the outcome. “For we live by trust, not by what we see,” 2 Corinthians 5:7 because what we “see is temporary and what is unseen is eternal” 2 Corinthians 4:18.
“I have done what was mine to do; now you go and do what is yours to do.”
St. Francis of Assisi
Trust, go, do!