Lost Lunch, Bend


Flowers bend in the winter season

Woke up to this verb today, bend. Funny how a word sparks something in memory that I somehow forgot was there. Last week, I watched beauty unfold in a middle school hallway amidst the chaos and confusion of all things virus. I found hope and courage looming in the subtle bend of a school teacher and a student.

This hopeful teacher shared her one constant, a peanut butter sandwich, with a student that lost her lunch in the hurried hallways. This hopeful teacher even spared her sacred 25 minute lunch bending over smeared french fries, gutted ketchup bags,and an exposed ham sandwich cleaning up the tiled floors so our young girl could catch a 25 minute tutoring session on the difference between RNAs and DNAs.

Bending sometimes looks like inconveniencing myself so that I can extend kindness to far off places. In my best moments, I catch myself wondering what little differences can I make this week, this month by inconveniencing myself.

Social distancing.
Limiting myself to 2 of the same products per transaction.
Buying a gift card at my favorite book store.

This is a small inconvenience for the betterment of my community, of the old lady next door, of my pregnant friends, of my friends working at the hospitals, of my brother in his fireman uniform.

Though for some this isn't as light as an inconvenience. This is a lost paycheck, this is a missed funeral, a dream deferred, a prolonged job hunt.

I hope you find comfort in these words that I read this morning by Emily P. Freeman in The Next Right Thing, "when God you delay the answers, we wait with hope. We resist the urge to sprint ahead in a hurry or lag behind in fear. Let us keep company with You at a walking pace, moving forward together one step at a time. Help us to know the difference between being pushed by fear and led by love.”

Flowers bend in the winter season, adapting to change beautifully.Flowers sway and bend with a snowy backdrop, the schoolhouse in the back.
Dear Girl Who Lost Her Lunch,
You are looked after.

At Unnamed Middle School, tennis shoes beneath desks anxiously tapped, knees bounced, and eyes swarmed each other as math class resumed somewhat normally. Tests remained on schedule, paper deadlines stayed firm, and even field trips hung on the calendar outlined in bright pink highlighter. It was hopeful optimism that students would be able to concentrate on anything else other than the pandemic looming outside their walls.

The classroom phone rang. All eyes shot to the phone, then back to the hopeful teacher. The disruption of that first ring jolted through the classroom. The constant ringing echoed each one of their anxious, curious energies. She put down her blue Expo and rushed to catch the call from the office secretary.

After a few nods, and searching the kids’ faces, she replaced the phone on its hook and told Tony his mom was here to pick him up.

Tony was the third kid this period to be picked up by parents. The hopeful teacher took a deep breath and tried her best to remain calm for the sake of the kids. She reminded them that sliding figures across the grid doesn’t change their area, and we call this what? Yes, Jane, translation.

She chose to use a fun shape, a heart, to make the material a bit more engaging, and then she translated the image, sliding the heart over the x-axis, like a broken heart. Or as one kid yelled out, “Looks like the virus graph.”

“Hmm, yep, exponential growth. I see it,” the hopeful teacher said with a sigh.

The bell rang and kids rushed out the door, leaving behind their books and pencil cases.

Lunch time.

Historic New England schoolhouse with a blue door in the snow.Rusty chains link together to form a fence.

The hopeful teacher dug through her bag for her lunch, the same as always, peanut butter sandwich and a water bottle. She learned through the years of teaching that consistency comforts. That her lunch was something she could control, unlike so many variations in the day of being a middle school teacher.

She turned off the lights and closed the door behind her weaving into a crowded hallway of all things NBA and concert closures. With her sandwich and bottle in her arms, she eyed the classroom across the hall where the rest of the teachers in her block gathered. Putting all those frogger games to good use, she dodged students as she made it across the hallway. Kids brushed up against her shoulders or left a small gush of wind as they raced to the cafeteria. Six feet apart, she thought. How were we, teachers, meant to enforce such a rule for such an age?

A young girl in the hallway balanced her lunch tray as she headed to the science lab for extra tutoring. She had missed yesterday’s class and what once wasn’t confusing is now beyond her comprehension. RNA, she thought, wasn’t it DNA?

She pushed through oncoming, hungry traffic when a young boy, with lunch recess on his mind and possibilities of school closures, bumped into our young girl. Her lunch tray flew into the air and crashed onto the floor. Her french fries slid across the tile, dodging fashionable Keds, hurried Adidas, and cozy Uggs.

Nooooo. No no no no.

Her one and only meal of the day scattered across the floor. Her stomach’s hollowness turned cold, like walking into a chilly pool. She sank to her knees, trying her best to salvage what wasn’t crushed by her classmates.

The hopeful teacher turned to find our young girl bending over her lost lunch. As she counted to ten, the hopeful teacher searched each of the students passing by our young girl and, well, hoping someone would do the good thing and help her.

Students giggled at the mess. Some kicked french fries from one to the other in a game of food soccer. Others simply chose not to see and turned a blind eye. One kid, yeah that kid, yelled, “Ew! The virus.” Even though it made no sense to the hopeful teacher, students reacted with ohs and ahs and pretended to scatter from the young girl scrambling to save her food.

A sigh.

The hopeful teacher hovered over our young girl, whose food tray was unfortunately empty. Her sandwich had unbundled and slid across the floor, the french fries smeared across the hallway. Not even a ketchup bag was salvageable.

With only 25 minutes left of lunch, a sacred 25 minutes, our hopeful teacher bent down and lowered to her knees, asking our young girl who lost her lunch how she felt about peanut butter.

She smiled, our young girl, as the hopeful teacher offered her half of her peanut butter sandwich and water bottle. And after learning that our young girl needed science help, the hopeful teacher said, “Don’t worry about the mess, I’ll make sure it’s cleaned up. You go learn all about DNA -- oh, RNA.” And the hopeful teacher spent her lunch break bending over smeared french fries, gutted ketchup bags, and an exposed sandwich not missing the other half of her peanut butter sandwich.

Praying for peace and wellbeing,