There is a part of teaching that only teachers know. Good teachers, as most are, bond with their students. Like ducklings and a mother duck. It's what makes a classroom a community, a haven, a nest of learning. It's the glue that brings deep communication and connection between teacher and child. Children united in friendship with one another.
This week I've replayed the moments in Texas classrooms when students turned toward their teachers and listened to their instructions one more time. Did they say to get under the desk? To get behind them? To go into the closet? To climb out the window? To push the desk against the door? Their last teachings, words of love, protection and care. Those beautiful little eyes riveted on them.
The start of a school year is always filled with hope, and the end is filled with accomplishment, exhaustion and, yes, sometimes regret for the things that didn't get done or didn't work. The students you didn't reach.
Then someone entered the room who was never reached, didn't learn and didn't love. We will learn his sad story in time. So for now I have pushed myself further to imagine the results of his actions. The scene when he was done, which officers had to encounter, which the living children saw or heard. A whole school heard it. The results of a gun in the hands of a man, devoid of the knowledge of the beauty that existed in that room.
My imagination turned my stomach, chilled my blood, froze my muscles. My heart pained. Depression flooded me. That no one is doing anything. That money bought this moment. That this stew of violence we live in cooked this up.
But back to this beautiful classroom. The final moments for these children. In the end their teachers' love and light encircled them. They were loved by the teachers and by one another.
I don't know what comes after we are here, other than I wish to be reunited with my loved ones who went before me and then to welcome those who come along after I go. We humans seem to worry most about the leaving, the actual experience of our lives ending.
If I could offer any meager comfort to the families of these children we have lost, it would be this: These children were in their place of safety, with teachers who loved them and classmates who cared about them. No matter the intruder and his unspeakable actions, they were looking at their teachers' love, held in their teachings, pointed to the future.
We who remain, meanwhile, are at a shameful reckoning point. A country that turns on its young, and smirks at those who work to protect them, has lost its way. It's created multiple people who have walked into our most sacred spaces and obliterated the deep work of love. Or attempted to.
True love lives on, true love protects, cares, teaches, hopes. True love waits impatiently and insistently for the living to care for the living and honor these deceased by preventing carnage.
Love is an action, not just a thought or a prayer.
Kris Potter lives in Minneapolis.