There were twenty minutes of class time left, and one of my students stood up. “Professor,” she said. “Since you’re leaving soon, we all have something to say.”
I’ve been teaching this college class for four years– a freshman-level course that aims to develop students’ academic, study, and personal skills. We get quite personal in this class, talking about vision for the future, struggles, disappointments, and inspiration. Each student even chooses a song that pushes them to keep going when things get tough, and presents these “inspirational lyrics” to their classmates (This year’s selection included everything from Bob Marley to worship songs to “Hakuna Matata“.) That day each of them told how being in our class impacted them, and by doing so, wrote words on my heart that will long resonate.
Several days after my students “took over” class, I was at a Christmas party with the music team for my local Sunday fellowship. We had all gathered in one room. I thought it was time for the “white elephant” gift exchange, but again, someone stood up. “Since you’re leaving soon, we have something to say.”
They didn’t just say kind things. My fellow team members gave insights and observations to help me see what had worked well, what I should keep doing, and what strengths God has given me, that I can take into a new context. Their words were blessings to continue what God was doing here, in my Middle Eastern community.
Take over normal conversations with words of encouragement. Take over normal events with conversations that build up each others’ souls. Those conversations will lead to laughter, risky feedback, deeper understanding, and occasionally tears. And those conversations help us give each other perspective, “second-story” views on life. Thanks to the students, friends, and family who do this in my world.