So, today in my classroom, we took a little bit of time to do a puzzle. We’ve been needing to work a bit on teamwork with this eclectic strong-willed little group, and we worked like a team. “We” were black, white, and multi-racial. “We” were blond haired girls and dark skinned boys and a white middle aged teacher whose olive skin is darker than some of her students who are African-American. “We” were the team. We talked about team work and we had a goal…to finish the puzzle…to make all of the many pieces fit.
And some of us tried to force pieces to go where they wouldn’t fit. And some of us tried to fix it. And some of us sat back and turned all the pieces to the same side and others of us found all the edges. Some of us were good at looking at shapes. Some of us were good at looking at colors and patterns. Some of us were good at encouraging. Some were good at organizing. We were a team, a very diverse, team of strong personalities that quietly sat together and put together a puzzle. And there were only six of us.
After 20 minutes, we realized that we probably wouldn’t finish the puzzle before it was time for these students to leave and the next students to come in. And do you know what “we” decided? The students volunteered, “why don’t we let them finish?” as the next group filed into my room. I was so proud of them. Because they realized that sometimes it’s not about us. But all of us wanted that puzzle finished because there’s just something unsettling about seeing all these pieces laying around when they are made to be one. One picture. One vision. One big piece made of lots of little pieces. The second group did gladly finish what the first group started and fit right into the Social skills lesson of teamwork that we were discussing this week. We all felt a feeling of accomplishment.
And as I drove home feeling a bit discouraged with regards to wondering what I’d find when I turned on the news regarding the election, I smiled. I smiled because I thought about the puzzle. I thought about the pieces, and those young minds and hearts and bodies that worked as a team to get the job done.Trust me, for this little crew, that was no small feat! And for some reason, that gave me a bit of hope.
I think it gave me a bit of hope because in a world where there a million pieces and a thousand different views and ignorant people that are vocal and wise people that are silent and every kind of people in between, I remembered that we have today. We have today to build puzzles and work like a team with those in our midst. We make a difference in the way we do or don’t work together with people who will or won’t see the big picture in our homes, in our families, schools, churches, synagogues, streets and communities. We are part of a whole. Each and every one of us are an important part of a whole.
Our nation is a nation divided. It is a complicated puzzle with fragmented views of what the whole is supposed to look like. It’s more obvious now than I ever remember it being. Now as I sit and watch the TV screen with the map of the U.S. (the ‘us’) with red and blue states that look like little puzzle pieces fitting together, I am choosing to remember that irregardless of the outcome of this incredibly divisive election, we are part of a whole. And the way we treat each other in the process matters. It matters so much. Win or lose. Democrat or Republican. Black or white.Conservative or Liberal. Christian or Atheist. We are part of a whole. United we stand. Divided we fall.
My students got that today. The only way they got anything done was by listening, contributing, working together and showing common courtesies. And maybe seeing the ugliness of the past year can help Americans to have a mirror held up to ourselves to determine that we need to pause. After the election and before the inauguration, I hope and pray that adults in our nation will step back, pause, and breathe. That collectively and individually people could stop long enough to listen and hear and respect.
I so believe that we are one nation under God, because I believe God is Sovereign. Whether we acknowledge God or not is up to us. The consequences will follow based on the choices we make. Consequences of a lot of these choices are a slippery slope, and there are many who refuse to acknowledge the way one choice will lead to another. There are those crying “Danger ahead!” and I so see the slippery slope our nation is on…financially, morally, ethically. I’m praying for mercy. I’m praying for vision. And I’m praying for team work that can come when very different strong-willed people can quietly take a little time to accomplish a small task at hand.
Puzzle pieces are meant to be put together. Praying for peace-makers…..piece-by-piece peace makers…who are both tenacious and kind, determined and resilient, focused and hardworking…because those little hands that were putting the puzzle pieces together in my class? They will be reaping the benefits or curse of what we do with this fragmented country. One adult, one voice at a time will help lead.
Yes, the problems facing our country are all too big. They are enormous. Like a vast million-piece puzzle, the problems facing our Nation are so complicated. But in the midst of this discouraging political climate, let’s not forget that puzzles are put together piece by piece, one piece at a time. We can’t do the whole puzzle, but we can try to make a positive impact in our little corner, with the little pieces we have. I’m not naive enough to think that I can make a huge difference in this incredibly big nation of ours. But one thing I can do….I can do my best to be a contributor, a peace maker in the lives of these little ones around me who are with me right here and right now. And maybe… that will make a world of difference to them, and to our little tiny corner of this great big puzzle we call the United States of America. Because puzzles…puzzles are meant to be put together.
Choosing to remember that every piece of a puzzle matters. Every single solitary one.
P.S. Oh, and I do want to add one more thing (always, lol…). When you hold up one puzzle piece, one might wonder what in the world it is. But when all of the pieces are put together, we see the big picture because all of the pieces blend into one, and it all makes sense. We so see in part these days…with puzzle pieces and with each other… And I think a lot of times, instead of accepting, we stereotype and categorize and analyze and think we see in whole when we see a teeny tiny part. It’s easy to get so caught up in the minutiae that we don’t understand, that we sacrifice the truths that we do. Maybe if we spend less time trying to analyze and figure each other out so much, we’d be able to see each other for who we are. Just a thought.
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”
- *love that “binds everything together in perfect harmony”..kind of like a puzzle…<3