By Sister Julie Myers, OSF
“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel” — Socrates
When joining my religious congregation, I said I would do anything but teach. I saw it as such a gifted profession and one that called for much greater knowledge than I thought my lil’ quiver held. So, as a ministry option, I entered the healthcare profession of physical therapy and spent the next 25 years teaching. Yes, TEACHING!
I found myself teaching patients how to move out of bed after an injury or prolonged bedrest from an illness; I taught gait training for patients who experienced a stroke, an industrial injury, or total joint replacement, I worked with patients dealing with traumatic burn injuries and amputations helping them to regain their function and mobility—and the list goes on!
My hospital ministry taught me that we truly are all teachers in this life. We must believe in the gift of knowledge and developed wisdom we each possess trusting that God will show us how to give it away! So, when a family friend asked if I would help teach life skills to a young couple (with two children) who desired to work their way out of extreme poverty and poor choices, I said yes!
I thought certainly the skills I developed while working with hundreds of different people and situations at the hospital could easily be transferred to this situation. I was confident we could do this together. But what I didn’t anticipate was the power of fear that gripped this young couple when faced with some hard choices or personal changes. I wasn’t ready for their resistance to the very help they had asked for!
My first lesson in working with someone who comes from a family of drug addiction, knowing all too well the companionship of poverty, is that there is no quick fix or shortened path to the other side of this mountain. It is not something I can do for them as if I am filling a vessel and all will be well henceforth.
To educate another is to take one step at a time with—not for—them; it requires support on empty days; encouragement of their efforts, no matter how small; it forces the teacher to allow the student to fall—only to start over; and it always requires tough love. Most importantly, to educate someone in life skills is to help them focus on God’s love—not life’s storm. It is only with combined efforts, respect and love will we weather the storm so that life’s flame remains vibrant and alive.
I ask you to pray for this young couple that they may have the courage to face their daily challenges, to grow in love with each other deepening their partnership and friendship, and be courageous enough to allow the people God places on their path into their circle of hope.