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There’s an Upside to Homework

September 28, 2011

I am reading research papers that are sprawled across my bed.  My computer is sitting on a wooden platform on my pillow and I am lying on my stomach somewhere in between it all.  Our apartment is too small for a desk, so my makeshift office will have to do for the night.

I’m reading.  I’m writing in a notebook pad.  I’m typing little notes on my computer screen for the stuff that is really important to remember.  Pages flip.  A pen scratches.  Keys get tapped.  I can’t even begin to count the various screens I have layered on top of each other on my laptop, but I think I’m making progress.  I think I’ve found a zone. Well, as much of a zone as I will find while trying to write a graduate paper after a full day of work.

My email inbox rings.  It rings twice.  Then three times.  Then a fourth time.  The rings all come in a row like rapid fire.  I am tempted to ignore it, to just move on and forget I heard it, but now the email button starts jumping from the menu bar on my Mac.  Email will not be ignored.

Alas, I check it.

I have emails from young minds I am responsible for teaching.  Four separate emails from four separate adolescents all needing help on their homework.

I burst out laughing.

My life is a zoo.  A wonderful, messy, discombobulated zoo.  A zoo where my best attempts at keeping all the animals in their prospective cages is for not.  A zoo where I love the work and am drained by the work.  A zoo where monkeys scratch and birds fly around and I am standing in the middle of all my animals with a bucket of food and a smile.  The chaos is laughable.  The stress is unbearable.  But my heart is beating.  Wildly.

I email my teens back.  I’m so happy for their homework distraction.  I’m so happy that in this moment, this very small moment, I am brought back into my purpose and my calling and my mission.  I’m talking to them from miles away and it’s wonderful.  I’m building community with them through this home-to-home email exchange and I can’t help but sink into the intimacy of it all.  They do not know that I am sitting on my bed, in my room with the worn down wood floors and the spot that creaks when I walk over it.  They do not know that my purple slippers sit tucked in the corner next to my dresser, that a blanket is draped over my legs, and that I have a mug of tea on my nightstand.  They don’t know we’re having a conversation this way, but we are.

I’m doing my school work.

They are doing theirs.

And we’re all helping each other get through it.

Homework has a new definition tonight.

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