On Taking Your Own Advice

I had a wonderful conversation today with a new friend who recently began teaching. She had a bad week, almost quit and called me to talk. Her words were so familiar that hearing them was like hearing myself a decade ago.

After listening with complete empathy, I replied, in essence:

  • The devil sows confusion. Whenever there is hearsay or gossip or implication, there is room for misinterpretation and divisiveness, the enemies of progress. Do your best to cling to the truth and to let everything else fall away.
  • Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young. They will, St. Paul notwithstanding, but you must dismiss their criticisms. Age does not guarantee maturity.
  • When people say cruel things, they often speak out of envy. A young, talented, wise leader is a target for all kinds of hateful comments. Pray for those people, remembering the worst things you have said with a jealous heart.
  • If your supervisors really wanted you to leave, they would have asked you to leave. Instead, they have said that they're proud of the work you're doing and that they believe God has called you to minister here. Write down as much as you can remember of those positive, encouraging thoughts they gave you. Re-read them anytime you are feeling persecuted. They are the reality of your situation. The rest just doesn't matter.
  • Remembering David Foster Wallace's words about worship, choose to worship God and to view yourself as He sees you -- flawed and struggling, but always with your eyes fixed on Him.

After talking with her for several hours, we hung up both feeling deeply nourished: helping is at least as gratifying as being helped. It occurred to me later that what I said was very good advice, but that none of it was my own; reading back over it, I can hear my mother, my priest, several dear friends and my extraordinarily wise husband. 

It also occurred to me that, if I took my own advice, I would be a much more joyful, loving and Christ-centered person. Not a bad thing to learn this week, halfway through Great Lent.

Six Ways to Sunday

Every day these little vignettes pass me by, when Sunday's peace seems a distant memory and I'm just trying to make it through another week. But now that I have a five-day weekend to reflect (thank you, late winter storm!) I find them coming back to me, making me smile all over again.

  1. We've just finished learning venir, to come, and bid goodbye to the early-dismissal track star; as she leaves, I explain to the class that revenir, to come back, is conjugated the same way. "So if you want to ask someone to come ba--," and inspiration cuts me off. I stride to the doorway and shout, "REVIENS!" She halts, bewildered, and the class dissolves in laughter. Meanwhile, the students in the hall get a sneak preview of my new advertising campaign for the French program.
  2. My favorite lesson of the whole year happens to be the day of my annual observation. I guide the class in the rhythmic tapping of iambic pentameter, the beating of the heart through the poet's words. Da-DUM. Da-DUM. Da-DUM. Now cracks a noble heart. Goodnight, sweet prince! Oh no, it is an ever-fixed mark. Titania waked and straightway loved an ass. Hyperbole, metaphor, double entendre. Richly-laden lines twist over and around them until their own are pouring forth: Australia is a lovely place to be.  My doggie loves to play and roll in snow. Morning coffee suddenly sounds poetic, and sunburned afternoons call to them from future summers. When the bell rings, my department chair apologizes for staying through the whole period: "I just didn't want to leave."
  3. Midway through a quiz, a student decides to reword a sentence and spends a good three minutes crossing it out. Her laborious scraping of pen on paper is finally interrupted with the clean smack of a whiteout pen on her desk, delivered with silent reproach by her neighbor who doesn't even look up from her own work. I can't help but laugh: that girl will make a great mom someday.
  4. During a "free" period as I'm hustling through the next batch of papers, I comment on one: "When I die, I want you to write my obituary." I am completely serious. If she can make a paper about Salinger sound as fresh and hopeful as he wasn't, I imagine she could do a lot for my posthumous public image. 
  5. Two separate parents, within a week of each other, thanked me for being hard on their children. "This is part of growing up," one said. "She needs to take responsibility for her actions," said another. My faith in modern parenting ceased its precipitous freefall and actually took a few halting, hopeful steps back toward the light.
  6. In the stairwell, as students jostle each other to get to break and I attempt to keep out of the way, I spot one who is particularly pained by the tangle of backpacks and ponytails. "This is SO not ideal," she huffs. I suppress a smile, but as I consider her words over the next few days, I realize it's a perfect thesis statement for my life. Maybe for yours, too.

College and Community

Of all the ways in which I've changed my mind since grade school, my opinion of community colleges is probably the most surprising.

When I was applying to schools, community college wasn't even on the radar. It seemed to me one step away from "taking a year off," which was itself one step away from not going to college at all. 

Then I married an adjunct faculty member at a community college, and within a year he had been offered a full-time position there. I listened as he told stories of second careers, rededicated focus and failures that actually taught more than they punished. He himself was a community college success story, having entered as an average student with very little direction and exited into a respected university and, later, graduate school.

Now, especially in this economic climate, I can't picture swallowing the tab for a four-year university, period -- but for a seventeen-year-old with little to no life experience? Unthinkable. She needs a place to experiment with learning, where she can try out classes and schedules and the Real World without the blinding fear on which so many university professors feed or the enormous debt that will almost certainly saddle her for a decade or more. Beyond that, if her parents have done their job, she still needs them as she navigates her first steps as an independent adult: the world of newly-unsupervised grown children is getting scarier with each passing year.

This lengthy piece about a new community college in New York (called, aptly, The New Community College) describes a sort of hybrid between a demanding prep school and the open-enrollment standard that has given community colleges their slacker reputation:

All students will take the same classes for the first year, though they will be separated into two levels of math. At other schools, students who need extra help can get it from skills labs, peer study groups, tutors or advisers. Here, none of those resources will be optional. “This is absolutely crucial because so many students appear at the door of community colleges completely clueless about what is required of them, or available to them,” said Ms. McClenney of the University of Texas. “They don’t know they need to do work outside of class. They don’t take advantage of tutoring and mentoring services. They don’t know about peer study groups or interacting with faculty.”

Students will be required to spend 90 minutes a week in “group work space,” working with classmates and building on what they learn in class, with help from peer mentors — more experienced students from other CUNY colleges. Much of that time will be devoted to writing and language skills, a particular weakness at this level. (When a professor in one information session asked for a definition of the word “urban,” she had to call on three applicants before getting a correct answer. One thought it meant “what’s going on now.”)

Students will also have mandatory weekly 90-minute group sessions with advisers, called “student success advocates,” addressing issues like study habits and stressful situations outside school.

“We’ve found that students usually try to confront problems alone, and they often make damaging long-term decisions, like dropping out, in response to temporary problems,” said Donna Linderman, director of a CUNY program that has tested some of the ideas behind the new college. “It makes an enormous difference to have them sit down regularly with an adviser who says, ‘O.K., how many hours are you working? How long is your commute? Let’s make this work and keep you in school.’ ”

I can't think of a better way to help introduce apprehensive and ambitious students to higher education, while simultaneously preparing them for the next rung on the academic ladder. (Well, maybe a privately-funded institution with the same goals. One thing time has not changed is my opinion about the perils of government bureaucracy and the ensuing mismanagement of funds.)

Interestingly, the college where Rob teaches has launched a very similar initiative, which the Wall Street Journal profiled earlier this spring (in fact, fast forward to 3:30 to see a glimpse of his department!) 

The difficult part about being enlightened later in life? Seeing students come through my classroom, and knowing they are just as I was -- totally unaware of what they really need, and totally unwilling to listen to someone who does.

Da Capo al Fine

Ten years ago this fall, I got a call from an acquaintance who was in college, planning to take a semester abroad. She had been moonlighting as a piano teacher to pay the bills and had about two dozen students who needed a teacher to cover her six-month absence. Was I interested?

Let's see. I had zero experience and was already holding down another part-time job. I had not studied piano myself in years. I was newly engaged with a huge wedding to plan. And I needed to finish my senior thesis and take comprehensive exams in order to graduate in the spring.

So of course, I said, "Sure!"

I didn't know the first thing about teaching, but found that it came quite naturally. Later, after some classroom experience, I realized that piano lessons had been the best possible introduction to the profession: one student at a time, in an activity they had chosen, with a parent close by to provide backup discipline. There were problems, of course, most of them administrative: parents forgot about lessons, didn't enforce practice and neglected to pay me, while students contributed orneriness and fatigue at exactly the wrong times. But these were rare compared to the hours spent learning and having fun with an instrument that seems designed to bring people together.

Over the years, I'd made many changes to the way my studio operated. Almost immediately, I transitioned into the Suzuki method, which I found infinitely simpler and more effective, though it made the process of parent education even more important. Then, when I took the classroom job, I moved my studio to my own house, which cut down on my travel time and my student load: those who were willing to come to me proved far more dedicated, so this was a good move. Along the way I educated myself whenever I could, squeezing in summer classes around vacations and seeking out mentors who could help me troubleshoot difficult situations.

Since taking that classroom job, though, my career has moved steadily in that direction. Last year, while I was finishing my graduate degree, I watched my poor piano studio dwindle down to almost nothing under a teacher who was fully present in the lessons, but fully absent before and afterward. Amazingly, they thrived, and for the first time ever I began and ended the year with all the same students (I really attribute this to our group lessons, which are now a permanent fixture.)

But I was right on the edge of being unable to handle them. So last spring, when the school offered me a full-time position along with a new class in another department, I knew it was time to say goodbye to this chapter in my life.

One by one, I broke the news to my families. Some were shocked, some sad, and one intuitive mother actually finished my sentence for me. We talked about moving on: a couple are going to transfer to my mom's studio, and at least one is ready to try a different instrument (so freeing, to see this as a success and not a failure!) Rob immediately began selling off the couches we'd kept for years as seating for students and their families; we're finding we like the extra space. I'm realizing I could attend Tuesday night Vespers for the first time in almost a decade. It's ending. It's good.

Here's the thing about endings, though: they always lead you to a new beginning of sorts. I'm hoping I will have time, now that grad school is behind me, to pick up my own books again. I look at the program from my senior recital and I wonder where the girl is who could play all those amazing pieces, who was confident in her ability to read and listen and express -- and how I could find her again. Maybe it's time I began looking.

I've always loved the musical term DC al Fine, which means, literally: go back to the beginning until you reach the end. Good advice for a Minuet. Good advice for life.

French, the Fun Way

When my school asked me if I felt comfortable teaching French in the fall, I answered truthfully that I needed some review first. In fact, I hadn't studied it formally since I was my students' age, at which time most of them weren't even born. I was blessed with a good memory and enough interest to practice from time to time on friends and during trips abroad, but I know that is no substitute for regular, intense study. So when the school offered to spring for a refresher course, I jumped at the chance, requesting an online class that I could complete around my erratic summer hours.

Transient

I'm pretty sure I could learn Sanskrit if it used kitten pictures as visual aids.

Rosetta Stone preaches total immersion: using photos and native speakers, the course doesn't contain a word of English, and uses complete sentences almost exclusively. I'm not sure if it would be as effective without my previous education, or whether I would be completely overwhelmed (after chatting with some of the other learners, I think the latter is more likely.) Still, it's a great mix of speaking, reading, writing and listening, with vocabulary and grammar drills mixed in for good measure (some in the form of optional games, which can be played alone or with other online students.)

At the end of each unit (there are four within each level, and five levels altogether) students schedule a session with a language coach. Up to three other students also attend, speaking only in the target language, and everyone has fun practicing their new skills. There is great variation among the coaches; I've had some terrific ones and some who ask the same questions over and over again. Likewise, among the students, there are some who, like me, have studied the language before, and some who are struggling for basic proficiency. The most fun sessions have been when the teacher is relaxed and the students curious; s/he will allow us to simply converse, teaching new vocabulary and phrases in conjunction with the guided practice set forth by the program. And even when connection problems prevent actual instruction, the experience is enjoyable: once the instructor was cut off halfway through, but we all stayed online and dutifully asked questions in French until the session ended.

Anyway, for homeschoolers or lifelong learners, I think it would be hard to beat this course for the price. By coincidence, I have two other friends in the program at the same time: one who is learning for fun and another who is preparing for a monthlong family trip to Paris. Both have had fun, though Kelly (who is studying for the first time) says she sometimes has to repeat lessons to really learn them, and Julie is frustrated by the headset that seems to have constant technical difficulties. (Since I did the online course, mine didn't come with a headset; my iPod earbuds have worked pretty well.)

Transient

C'est vrai. Speaking from experience.

Commencement

Mrs. Lowe, Thanks making class so interesting for Nicole this year. We had a lot of fun discussions about a number of her assignments. Have a great summer.

We loved this year. I think Kayleigh is improving greatly. I can’t wait for next year. Thanks for everything you do, Emily!

My scores went up 180 points! I’m so happy! Thank you so much!

Mrs. Lowe - Thanks for being such a great teacher that puts up with my constant opinions. I hope I have you again.

Commencement. I’ve been thinking a lot about this word, having attended quite a few last month (one of the many reasons I never made it over here to let you know!)  It marks the end of something momentous: for my students, four years of studying, learning and growing up; for my sister, a decade of decisions, indecisions and redecisions; for me, too many semesters of slow, plodding progress toward a goal.

And now we’re finished.  Finally.  My sister has the piece of paper that will save her endless headaches trying to work overseas.  My students are at Senior Week, making up for all the responsible and moral decisions they made in my classroom.  And I am Officially A Teacher, pending sixteen weeks’ worth of paperwork from the good people at the Maryland State Department of Education.

But they don’t call it “finishment” or even “completement.” It’s called “commencement,” because as much as we think we are (want to be) finished, we are really just beginning.  We all have plans, but we also know they are just that — plans — and they will almost certainly change, most likely at the time and place we least expect them to.  There’s something oddly comforting about that, the way a neat stack of folded onesies belies the messes that will call them into service one by one.

For me, it means embracing what I have resisted for so long: commitment. Sure, I have done my job and done it well, I think. But now I will see what it’s like for the millions of teachers who get up early every single day, turn on the lights in their classrooms, and teach until the final bell. I’ll have a classroom. I’ll teach all day. And I’ll have a new challenge in a French class. That’s right: I get to be the one to teach them the joys of this language I have loved for so long. I still remember my first year of French in seventh grade, and how much I loved every minute of the teacher’s blend of careful instruction with goofy antics. They are huge shoes to fill.

But first I have my own French adventure to enjoy, starting tonight. My husband, who rarely asks me for anything, wants me to journal every day, and he bought me a new international smartphone to make the process easier.  So I guess we’ll be seeing a lot of each other in the next couple of weeks!

I Am Not a Teacher

Yesterday I realized that I had completely neglected this blog in the last frenzied month of church preparations for Pascha and my last-ever grad school project: an online portfolio with more hoops than an 18th-century petticoat. Sorry, everyone (all four of you!)  I’m still too brain-dead for new material, but you might enjoy this piece I wrote for the Philosophy of Education section of my portfolio.  I was feeling a little rebellious and not very philosophical when I wrote it, but hey, maybe that will make me stand out:

I am not a teacher. I am a B-grade comic, telling jokes that swoop over my audience’s head, waiting patiently for the punch line to sink in and sometimes stooping so low as to explain the irony for the momentary pleasure of their laughter.  Enduring mostly-good-natured heckling because really, any attention is better than no attention when you’re trying to drag a class by its recalcitrant heels through the murky depths of Shakespeare.  Ignoring Fred Jones’ advice and bopping till I drop, day after day: playing silly video clips, exposing my ignorance of pop culture and enduring barrages of personal questions (Did you ever get in trouble in school? What does your husband do?  Do you like our class the best?) in an effort to win their amusement and, by extension, their attention.

I am not a teacher; more often I am a grizzled police officer worn down by my own optimism.  Excuse me, ma’am?  Do you know how late that homework assignment is?  Well, I hate to do it, but I’m going to have to write you up.  Ten percent per day.  Oh, I know I’ll hear from your mother about this, but the law is the law, and I’m bound to protect and serve.  To protect you from mediocrity, from indolence and the deadly threat of just skating by – from yourselves and the society that seeks to possess you.  And to serve you with justice, the stomach-tightening justice of knowing you were wrong and the sweet elation of doing it right, on time, in spite of all the other responsibilities and commitments you had to fulfill last night and this morning.  I can sniff out a wandering eye during a test and an intimidating eyeroll during a group project, and both will incur my wrath.  Be fair.  Be kind.  Or else.

I am not a teacher: I am your secretary. I will post grades and administer make-up quizzes and attend required meetings even when they are hopelessly irrelevant.  I will fill out forms and make you fill out forms and file the forms against some unnamed future day of reckoning.  I will remind you two or three or sixteen times about which assignments are due; I will repeat myself even when I have sworn not to; I will keep track of who is in the bathroom and who is at the nurse’s and who just got diagnosed with a learning disability and needs to take her tests in Guidance, and who can’t take her test at all because she just whacked her head in the bathroom and feels dizzy, or left her books at home and – no, please, no tears – just can’t do it today, Mrs. Lowe, please

In fact, if anything I am a psychologist, drying the tears of self-discovery and double-crossing the more wily among you who won’t go down without a fight.  I can trick you into enjoying the act of revision.  I can guilt you into a grudging respect for the Dark Romantics.  I hear your prayers for one another and the whole world; I see your defeated faces when you’ve just failed a quiz; I understand your frustration with the SAT and your parents and global warming, all buttressed by rising estrogen levels.  We talk about whose fault it is when a student doesn’t know the answers, and sometimes it’s mine.  We close our eyes and imagine a long staircase, count down the steps to enter the office of your brain, open the right drawer and folder and spread out the impressions and notes and then walk back up, open our eyes and KNOW we are ready for the test.  We overcome shyness in front of a group, and your smile after you’ve haltingly spit out your four index cards about the literary devices in Bret Harte’s short story is more engulfing than a sumo wrestler’s hug (that would be a simile of sorts, but you don’t have to keep track since it was mine.)

I am not a teacher but a student myself: I learn from you every day what never to do (leave the room, even for half a minute) what to save for special days (food and the computer lab, but not together) and what to do over and over again (smile and be patient.)  I attend classes on my own even when not required, hoping that by learning French or Byzantine notation I can put myself back in your shoes long enough to understand you, and thus to reach you more fully.  I tell my own stories of late-night papers and last-minute projects, yawn-inducing professors and grades that I totally did not deserve: after my class, grad school will be a picnic.

I am not a teacher.  How could I be?  That would mean I am somehow worthy of the sweet (and sour) faces and clear (and cluttered) minds that fill the seats in front of me, day after day – that I can be trusted to lead them in the right way with loving firmness, to give them a (proverbial!) slap in the face when they need it and a cautious pat on the back when they don’t.  (Touching is not recommended, not for liability reasons but because it is guaranteed to bring tears, and then it’s back to the couch for a heart-to-heart instead of grading those vocab quizzes and making up a rubric for the next class’ presentation.) 

I am not a teacher, but I will do whatever I can to make sure you get an education.  And I will hope and pray that it was enough.

The Last Test

In order to qualify for state certification in Maryland, prospective teachers must pass a series of tests called the PRAXIS exams.  They are loads of fun, as you might imagine.  The first one, a general-knowledge test, was embarassingly easy and I regretted every minute of studying; afterward, I was miffed to learn that I actually could have submitted my SAT scores instead.  The second, a content-area knowledge test, was more challenging but still easier than I’d thought it would be, and again I studied much too long and hard: it was a 2-hour exam and I finished in about 45 minutes.  (This wouldn’t have been so bad except that it was about fifty degrees in the exam room; I was dressed appropriately for the July weather.  The proctor said that if I left before the test was over, my score would be canceled, so I tucked all four limbs into my T-shirt and huddled in the corner for another hour, taking breaks to go outside and warm up every so often.)

This last exam was based on pedagogy.  From what I could gather online, in one hour I had to answer two multi-part questions: the first about a work of literature and how I would go about teaching it, and the other in response to a piece of student writing.  Although I thought I could probably pass without studying, I had an added incentive in that the system itself was changing; if I failed this one, I would have to conform to Maryland’s new state requirements, which would mean a different test that combined pedagogy with content knowledge.  So I dutifully reviewed, compiling a list of seven works I thought were likely to be on the list and main features of each one.

Because I had registered late, all the testing centers in Maryland were booked solid, so I registered for Howard University in DC, consoling myself with the fact that a good friend lives nearby and we’ll have lunch afterwards.  The rest of the story is most effective with a timeline format:

9:15 Leave home half an hour early just in case of traffic.

10:15 Arrive half an hour early.

10:16 Slight panic about the lack of change for parking meters.  Resolve this by paying remotely with my cell phone (score one for technology!) and then leave it in the car, heeding the warning on my ticket.

10:20 Enter the testing center.  No discernible order, proctor or instructions anywhere, just a crowd of college kids scarfing down bagels and texting.  Wonder whether they are stupid or smart for ignoring the warning.

10:45 Test time comes and goes.  Nothing.

10:55 Woman in sweats and a T-shirt enters the lobby and assigns groups of students to different testing rooms.

11:00 My group arrives at its room.  The proctor is at the door, checking IDs and assigning seats.

11:05 Chatting in line with another student, I hear that the format of the test is completely different as of December (she failed the last one and is hoping for better luck on the new test.)  Different how?  All multiple choice, with a lot of questions about psychology, she says.

11:06 Blind panic.  Well, it’s too late to do anything now.

11:10 I am seated.  The proctor reads instructions in a heavily island-accented voice that would be charming if my own pulse would quiet down.  I can’t understand her pronunciation of “pedagogy,” which she says “ped-DA-go-JI.”

11:15 Tests are distributed. I ask casually when we’ll begin.  “Around 11:30.”  I really, really regret my obedience to the cell phone rule, since no one else’s has been confiscated and I’d like to let my friend know I’ll be almost an hour late.  Also, I’m wondering if I have any chance of passing this new test.

11:30 We begin filling out all the paperwork associated with the test.  Student ID number, Social Security number, zip code, test center code, university code, linkage number, serial number and probably more I’ve blocked from my memory.

11:45 Everyone finally finishes the paperwork and the test begins at exactly the time I thought we would be finishing up.

11:46 I look at the first question and know my hapless new friend was wrong.  The format is unchanged, and what’s more, two of the seven works I prepared are on the list.  I choose Hamlet and prepare to wow the graders with my extensive mental catalogue of quotes (I watched the Kenneth Branagh version on a continuous loop for most of 11th grade.)

12:45 The exam finishes and we have to endure yet another set of instructions, this one about when we will receive our scores and how to cancel them if we want to.  I wonder idly if this couldn’t be accomplished some more efficient manner, perhaps by an instantaneous system of electronic communication in advance … 

12:55 I arrive back at my car, happy that I paid for the maximum number of hours, and call my friend.  Lunch with her and her adorable daughter, at this homey-chic pub, is perfect.

As the conclusion to my test-taking career, I’d like to offer this brief meditation, with which I now sympathize just a little more.  I think they concentrated on pedagogy LAHHHST year.

Leading, Gently

Today, on my way out of his office, I realized how much my vice-principal has taught me about how to lead:

  • Openness: he is always available.  If he’s out of his office, he returns phone calls or e-mails right away and works around my schedule to find a time to talk.  And once we are talking, I never feel a bit rushed or foolish for bringing up my concerns: he really listens and wants to help.
  • Trust: when I recently asked his advice about a situation with a student, he first responded, “What’s your feeling about this?” I told him, and he said, “That’s what I was thinking, too.” There are no words to describe the gift of a principal who trusts his teachers.  I know that he will defend me and my actions.
  • Joy: he has a wonderful sense of humor. I frequently leave his office laughing, with a healthy distance between myself and my problems.  His quick wit helps me realize how utterly unoriginal my situation is: others have endured this before me, and I too will endure it, with God’s help and his support.
  • Love: he helps remind me of why I am a teacher.  At the close of our conversation today (which centered around three separate incidents of parent communication) we both ruefully acknowledged that this was the season for such flare-ups.  People are overcome by the pressure and stress of the holiday season, and this causes them to get angry or hurt by situations that are really not so bad.  And then he took one more step: “We need to pray for peace,” he said.  “Peace for the whole world,” I remembered, as we pray at each Liturgy.  “Yes, for the whole world,” he said, “and for ourselves, too.”

Two Sides of Social Justice

Yesterday I read an action research project by an inner-city Chicago teacher.  In a unit about social justice, she encouraged her class of twenty-five first and second-graders to think about fairness and compassion, and they responded accordingly:

If I were President I would tell the builders who build houses for rich people to build the homeless houses and I would give them food and a car.

If I were President I would take care of lots of people. People would have 3 day weekends. There would be no school for a week.

If I were President I would give money to school and help all the people in the world improve their schools.

If I were President I would make things good.  I would love the world and I would buy anything for kids and I would get people homes.

Part of me read these sentiments with a great deal of cynicism.  How sad that these children view government as a benevolent, even indulgent caretaker – that rather than giving people freedom to live their lives, they wanted the President to bestow material comfort upon them. 

The Occupy Wall Street seems, at its core, to have a similar idea: they want to stop the most successful people in society from continuing to be successful by spending their money on the foolish and hapless masses who have financially gotten in over their heads.  This (besides the pretentions of activism and the lack of hygiene and decorum) keeps me from being too enthusiastic about their mission and the press that’s glued to it.

So I was pretty shocked, later that evening, to read the following in the Psalms:

Why dost thou stand afar off, O Lord?
Why dost thou hide Thyself in times of trouble?
In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor;
let them be caught in the schemes which they have devised.
For the wicked boasts of the desires of his heart,
and the man greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord.
In the pride of his countenance the wicked does not seek him;
all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”
His ways prosper at all times;
thy judgments are on high, out of his sight;
as for all his foes, he puffs at them.
He thinks in his heart, “I shall not be moved;
throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity.”
His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression;
under his tongue are mischief and iniquity.
He sits in ambush in the villages;
in hiding places he murders the innocent.
His eyes stealthily watch for the hapless,
he lurks in secret like a lion in his covert;
he lurks that he may seize the poor,
he seizes the poor when he draws him into his net.
The hapless is crushed, sinks down,
and falls by his might.
He thinks in his heart, “God has forgotten,
he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”
Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up Thy hand;
forget not the afflicted.

If God’s not too good to care for the poor, maybe we should think about doing the same.