My wife is a teacher in the local elementary school here in Mount Pleasant. The desks are all spaced six feet apart, the kids and the teachers wear masks all day. They can’t sit close to one another--or to the teacher--to look at the same books or papers. To limit interaction and contact, the kids stay in the classroom to have lunch and music and art.
Central Michigan University professors in this congregation tell me about teaching one group of students in the classroom, while addressing another group who are connecting by video. The cases of coronavirus reported on campus are alarming the whole community and causing city residents to blame “those college students” for gathering in large groups to party.
When the season changes and fall is in the air, like it is today, my heart and spirit are in back-to-school mode. I remember waiting for the bus with my sisters and the neighbors. I remember getting my picture taken in the driveway with my first day of school outfit on. It did not include a mask! I remember my years of teaching elementary and middle school and the excitement of the first day.
We all want something to be normal in this crazy year. We want something to be safe in this scary year. The change of the season is reassuring somehow. The students – some of them – are going back to school on yellow busses. Some others are choosing to stay home, and some cities are choosing to hold off on school until it is safer. It is not normal, but life goes on and we are all part of the new normal. This is how September is this year. We can only live in this year, not some September future, past, or imagined.
God of little children holding onto parents’ hands, God of teachers and professors trying to keep themselves and their classes safe from disease, God of seasons changing and first wind of autumn, hear my prayer.
May the young ones be safe. May the adolescents be safe. May the teenagers and college students be safe. May the school boards and superintendents and college presidents have wisdom and compassion to make the right choices for the well-being of all.
May laughter ring from school yard playgrounds and may college students roam campuses and throw Frisbees with the joy of another school year begun. May all be safe and loved and happy.
Rev. Andrew Frantz
**I will be on vacation next week. The minister’s column will resume on September 16.**