As morning classes came to an end, students flipped their large math volumes shut, notebook paper filled with stick figure drawings and formulas crunched under the page weight. The modular trailer door opened and shut with bangs in succession as students filed in and out, pulling out paper bag lunches, decks of cards, and usually one student dribbled a basketball or tossed a tennis ball on the carpeted floor. The teacher joined in the conversation of the students, taking a seat at the long, rectangular table near the door crowded with chairs, books, papers, mittens, and backpacks. One student reclined in the beat-up leather rocking chair; another charged a dollar for each can of soda out of their locker. Someone pressed play on the boombox near the door, half of the group groaning for someone to change the CD from yesterday.
Icy air curled in through the windows, but many bodies warmed the space, making up for the struggling heater. Boots and shoes were stamped out on the decking before entering, the heavy metal door squeaking open again and again as gloves and hats were donned in the middle of eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The trailer was a bustling commotion of life: shouting, laughter, rough-housing, animated discussion. One minute there were ten simultaneous conversations occurring, the next they would all be in sync as spokes around a hub before they would reverberate and split again, seesawing in and out over and over and over. Heavy, weighted thuds could be heard outside every few moments and the creaking of the ceiling overhead. It was the administrator shoveling the wet snow off of the flat roof the second time that morning, crossing back and forth with his snow shovel in passes and calling out to the boys below to watch the ice. His tie flapped in the wind and his glasses were foggy.
The lunch hour was still early. Students converged on the outdoor basketball court next to the parking lot with hockey sticks wrapped in athletic tape. January street hockey in the parking lot found them on a game day–all the basketball boys and the volleyball girls were dressed up–ties and dress pants, skirts and dress shoes, but it didn’t stop them from crashing and shoving their way through to pass the puck and slap the hard plastic sticks for a goal before tumbling back into the classroom with shouts, rosy red faces, drippy noses, and accounts of perfect deliveries or hilarious misses, trips, and falls. Then they read lines from Hamlet before moving on to discussions on iniquity, propitiation, redemption, and justification.
A few hours after lunch they all piled into vehicles together, no matter the blizzard, to the volleyball and basketball games an hour away to the south. Those who were not on the teams would go to be a part of the evening and cheer on their mates. Parents left work and filled the stands. Those who played early would stay for the later games. Teachers were coaches and were also the drivers, so of course, they were there, too. Everyone was there, all the time, supporting one another, drilling during warm-ups, grabbing water bottles, and screaming until throats were hoarse. They piled into the vans again, half of them sleeping, some finishing homework because the English teacher, in the passenger seat, told them to turn it in on time tomorrow, others chattering away the hour home. It would happen all over again in two days at the next game.
In between all this activity, there were students with burdens and hurts, wishes and goals, anxieties and insecurities, frustrations and anger that spilled out messy all around one another.
“We are all one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them (Rom. 12),” Coach would recite to them.
If there was jealousy, strife, anger, it was worked out among pencil scribblings and between classes, through harsh, open tears over a week, or after days of icy silence, or perhaps in an outburst of anger or gossiped whisperings. It was worked out in the locker room and on the court, in the church pew and at evening meals. It was worked out pelting snowballs at one another and then sitting in detention, out driving back roads, swimming the lake together, and summer overnights. If they said that they couldn’t forgive, couldn’t love, couldn’t put away their selfishness even though they wanted to, perhaps they wanted to harbor it just a bit longer, teachers would nod and say gently, but it can be done. Will you do it?
Beauty, it seems, doesn’t just come through perfection, but as a flickering brilliance of hope and desire in the shadows. It breaks forth where Truth lies, like the breathtaking sunrise over the frosty dawn after the cold, deathly night, piercing the heart to awake, Awake! And then there is Goodness, which is the sharing of Truth that illuminates Beauty among friends who hold hands with one another, who pray huddled together, and fight with one another but then alongside one another. All the harsh words and hiding, sadness and exploitation. In these bumps and bruisings, these deep cuts and lashings, strangers and enemies become our friends.
We, these differing parts, members of one another through Christ, have gifts we have been given. Let us use them, let us comfort and embrace, let us share and pray, let us forgive. “The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community.”