I was home alone when I got the call.
It was the summer after I graduated from my undergrad. I had applied to teach in two districts, though my alma mater was my first choice. As an elementary education major, my dream was to teach second grade. The kids who loved you simply because you existed. A whole class to invest in for the entire year. A dream. My dream.
I had gotten a rejection letter earlier that morning from my 'second-choice' district, saying they had found someone else to fill the position I had interviewed for. All my eggs were in a single basket now. And I was hoping to keep the dream alive. But as a small fish in a big pond, I had backup options ready.
The phone rang and I answered it. The principal identified himself, we exchanged pleasantries, and he then offered me the job. Sixth grade. Social studies and Language Arts.
Wait. What? I didn't want sixth graders. Those kids were eleven years old. You switched classes every forty minutes. I would teach two areas of content and only one of them was within my comfort zone. Middle school? What?
All of this went through my head in less than a half a second.
"Out of 681 applicants," he continued, "we chose you."
"Were they really all that bad?" I asked.
Perhaps he thought I was being cute. Or humble. Thankfully, he laughed. But there was a bit of truth in my first reaction. Did he have any idea how UNqualified I was to take this job?
Oh, I accepted it. I would have been silly not to. I would do whatever it took to be successful. At twenty years old, I cut my hair to make myself look older. I stayed so late each night that I got really close with the nighttime janitorial staff. And just prayed that my incoming eleven-year-old students wouldn't realize they weren't even ten years my junior. And I completely fell in love with every aspect of my job.
I was introduced to a wonderful group of teachers who helped bring me into the team and I began one of the best experiences of my entire life. For five and a half years, I invested everything I had into my work... and I always got more in return than I gave. (Two random thoughts: how many other people in history were brought into positions where they were completely unqualified, but God used them anyway? And second, if I hadn't been working at the middle school - which educates sixth- through eighth-graders - I'm not sure where I would have met my husband, who started working there three years later as an aide with a degree in secondary social studies? Ya see? There's a bigger plan. But those are two totally different stories for another day.)
When I was getting to know the content, I knew that I needed to get back to the basics. Ancient civilizations - Egypt, Greece, China - and I couldn't remember a ton. Not enough to teach. I decided to go to the library and take out as many children's books I could on each subject. Learn as much as I could in order to give me a background to work from to better teach my students.
My confidence grew as I realized that teaching social studies was all about being a story teller. And I did love a good story. I absolutely loved it.
Back to the basics.
I've been thinking about this when I sing to my kids.
The songs I sing to them are ones I've been singing since I was a kid. I know the words inside and out. They're so basic. So simple. And yet, so very profound.
Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world.
Red, brown, yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight.
Jesus loves the little children of the world.
He's got the whole world, in His hands.
He's got the whole wide world, in His hands.
He's got the whole world, in His hands.
He's got the whole world in His hands.
Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong. They are weak, but He is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so.
These are the basics. Jesus loves us. The Bible can be trusted and we believe what it says is Truth. God is big enough to hold the entire world in His hands and yet small enough to love each of us - no matter what color or where we live - right where we are.
Simple? Yes. Profound? Definitely.
These children's songs are those library books I checked out as a new teacher. The basics. The bones of it all. Everything else added to it are the skin, the muscles, and everything else that gives us movement. But these are the basics.
In times of tragedy, you immediately go to what you know best. What feels comfortable. Your first reaction. How grateful I am to have grown up in a home where both of my parents lived these Truths. Where they constantly invested in the four of us kids - emotionally and spiritually - and even into our adulthood. They provided the bones. The basics. It was up to me to choose it for myself, to make my faith personal. To decide how I would allow God to influence my life, my decisions, my family.
It's also in times of tragedy that you realize just how firm your foundation is. How strong your bones are. And I'm learning through these past few weeks... it all comes back to the basics.