A Lesson Learned in Luke

Project Give Thanks day 6

“It’s a very ancient saying, but a true and honest thought, that if you become a teacher by your pupils you’ll be taught.”- The King and I

My students have an essay due tomorrow, so naturally when I logged onto my e-mail for the first time this morning, I wasn’t surprised to find desperate pleas for help. While I’ve told my students time and again that I can do little for them in the way of major feedback 24 hours before an assignment is due, I’ve resigned myself to the reality of always finding e-mails of the “What should I write my paper on” variety even with the deadline looming. (As an aside, I hate this question more than carrot raisin salad, or the sound of the alarm clock on Monday morning, or…insert anything unpleasant and double the wrath I feel toward it). Similarly frustrating are the students who will send me a draft of a paper the day before its due, asking me to “look it over”. Having been at this job for nearly five years, I think I’ve become fairly skilled at spotting the difference between the student who is genuinely struggling with her writing and the one to whom “look this over” translates to “correct my mistakes so I will get an ‘A'”.

When I opened my e-mail this morning, I discovered a message from a student with a nearly-finished essay that she wanted me to “look over”. I’m not unwilling to provide my students with encouragement and input during the writing process; let’s face it, for most of us, words don’t flow freely from our fingertips like milk and honey from the Promised Land. That said, there must be a practical limit to my kindness; if every student sent me a draft, and I responded to each one, I would effectively be grading it twice; not to mention, I would have little or no time to devote to my dissertation, lesson-planning, writing the book article I’m currently working on, and the myriad of other professional obligations that demand my attention. Then, of course, “teacher” is only one of many hats I wear; I am a friend, a daughter, a sister, an active church-member, and a writer—all of which come bundled with their own set of responsibilities.

With a fortifying sip of coffee, I wrote back to my student and promised a response by the end of the day; trying not to become overwhelmed with my to-do list before I even began to tackle it, I headed over to the U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops page for my daily dose of scripture.

Whenever I find myself struggling to answer the question of how my work in academia serves the Lord, I remind myself that Jesus was—and is—a teacher, and today’s lesson was one I was glad I didn’t miss. In today’s Gospel (Luke 17:7-10) Jesus challenges his apostles: “When you have done all you have been commanded, say,
“We are unprofitable servants;
we have done what we were obliged to do.” Here Jesus reminds us that to truly answer the call to serve others, we cannot merely do what is expected of us; we must go above and beyond the call of duty—work overtime without compensation, so-to-speak. (Though he also reminds us that our reward for all we do will be great in Heaven). I took that to heart as I thought about my work today, and I realized that so much of doing my job successfully demands going above and beyond the call of duty; doing more than what is expected of me, even when it doesn’t suit my convenience. How would it have been if someone with an unclean spirit had appealed to Jesus for healing only to have him tell them “Sorry, closed for business. Tell your demons to take a chill pill and call me in the morning.”? OK, so teaching students the value of sound rhetoric in their daily lives isn’t perhaps as monumental an achievement as, say, the Loaves and the Fishes trick or raising a man from the dead, but I think the idea here is that we’re called to live all aspects of our lives, great and small, with that compassion. True, I’m an imperfect human, and I’m not always going to get it right, but today I’m thankful for the reminder of what I’m striving for.

What are you thankful for today?

1 Comment »

  1. I’m gainfully employed, and have people who love me (this is a general thanksgiving prayer).

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