"We can do no great things, only small things with great love" -Mother Teresa
Pencils are a problem in 1st grade. Someone doesn't have one, someone else can't find theirs, someone else's isn't sharp, the list of pencil woes goes on and on and on. But this, one of my biggest logistical frustrations, brought me the greatest moment of clarity I've had all year.
It's 9:15 on a Tuesday and one of my most challenging students walks into class 45 minutes late. He holds nothing in his hands and has no backpack on his back. Ok, I take a deep breath and keep going with the lesson while helping this little guy get settled. His neighbor, Elizabeth, offers him one of her pencils so he can do his work. "Perfect," I thought, waiting for her to choose which pencil she wanted him to borrow from her pouch. She had a few different ones in there, 7 to be exact, all at different stages of their pencil-lives. I expect her to take out her most beat up, dingy looking pencil she wouldn't mind losing in case he doesn't remember to give it back.
Instead Elizabeth tells me, "He can take my new red one. I want him to have one with an eraser. Because he might make a mistake and need to erase it. I want to give him my best."
I felt slightly disoriented for half a second before taking that perfect, red pencil from her and giving it to her neighbor to use. I had just witnessed the greatest act of compassion a 6-year-old could bestow.
How often do I do that? How often do I really give someone or something my best? Best effort, best belonging, 100% of my focus. Because it's oh-so-easy to live a life of halves, a life looking out for yourself more than others, a life full with selfishness and starved of generosity. But that's not the life I want to live.
I want to listen, really listen, to what my students are so excited to tell me at lunch.
I want to be present in each day so that I can see the needs of others and respond to them.
I want to live generously and give away all my perfect red pencils, knowing they might not be perfect when they're returned to me.
I want to ___________________ . How would you fill in that blank to live a more generous life filled with small acts of great love?
So every night I pray. For a generous spirit. For the faith of a child. For eyes to see the world the way God does. I pray these things for you and for me. And I hope that the next time you see a new pencil, you think of my student Elizabeth's great act of compassion, and look around to see how you can do one of your own.