I am not sure if I would be a doctor today if it weren’t for my 5th and 6th-grade teacher, Susan Hoffmier. She was one of those teachers who always had new ideas to inspire us. I remember huge group projects that took a week to build, transforming our classroom into different states in the country or an inventor’s workshop. She taught us social justice, inspiring but not encouraging students to strike on behalf of teachers who were not being paid fairly. She held at least one class meeting where we had to talk about being kind to one another because we were in middle school and that wasn’t always the norm. Mrs. Hoffmier cared about us deeply and knew us personally. This is why, when she told me one day at recess that I would make a great doctor, it planted a seed in me.
At that point in my life, my plan had been to be a teacher. My mother was an excellent, passionate educator so this is what I knew. If you want to love your job, be a teacher. It took a teacher to tell me I could do something else. This is not to say my mother would not have encouraged me to be a doctor. The truth is absolutely the opposite. She has supported me in this endeavor every step of the way. But I think kids look to their parents and see the ultimate. If my mom is the moon and stars to me, if I want to grow up to be like her, then it is easy to start with copying her job. This takes root early and is repeated over and over. I needed Mrs. Hoffmier to tell me that, with my interests and giftings, I could do more.
When I say this, I don’t mean there is any profession more noble than a teacher. I mean that sitting in my mom’s classroom left me depleted and exhausted, at the same time that it energized her. I wouldn’t have made a fabulous teacher because I would have burned out. I can support people more in my role as a pediatrician because this is where I fit. This is what I love. My daughter currently wants to be a physician. She will be great at it because she is an amazing human being. But I wonder if she can also be more. Her giftings are toward social justice. I would love for her to have a Mrs. Hoffmier in her life who knows her so well she can plant a different seed, giving her options I don't know how to inspire.
I wonder how many seeds are not getting planted because of Covid. Internet teaching is impersonal teaching and will challenge our educators to find new ways to do so many things they do best. While it might be physically safer to keep kids at home for education right now, it might not be the safest thing in terms of harnessing kid’s potential.
School is not the only area where there are conflicting truths. I recently had a doctor’s appointment where I was told that despite exercising nearly every day, eating a pretty healthy diet, and trying to get 8+ hours of sleep each night, it isn’t enough. If I want to maximize my sleep at night and thus benefit my health overall, I have to exercise in the morning. When he told me I should get up earlier to exercise, I thought about how I already changed my mornings once to get up and spend time in the Bible. Starting the day with God makes my day better. I don't think I can get up earlier to exercise AND have quiet time with God. If I do, then I would likely get less sleep because I am not sure I can consistently get to bed earlier at night. So which is worse, doing my exercise in the evening but spending time with God and getting enough sleep overall, or exercising in the morning but sacrificing sleep and a strong relationship with Jesus? For me, the answer is clear, even if it isn't perfect.
This leads me to think of so many other conflicting truths in my life. For example, I don't like that my son plays Fortnite and spends more time on screens than I think is best for him. On the other hand, he does this with a headset that allows him to verbally interact with his friends, one of the few ways he has of connecting with peers during this age of Covid.
More than one thing can be true at a time. Which truth we choose to listen to might change based on the day or the family. Rules in my home are likely different from rules in your home. This doesn’t have to make us rivals or enemies. It just makes us different.
If we think of these as conflicting truths, trying to navigate the tension of both sides, it allows us to find common ground with others and forgive ourselves as our thoughts and actions change. I might not believe in rewarding good behavior in young children, but I also might know that a Skittle or M&M would get the result I want. I might not want to set the precedent of sleeping in the same bed as my toddler but if I feel sick and don't have the energy to fight the battle, I know that giving in will allow us both sleep better right now.
We all do this stuff, all of the time, balancing both sides of a coin. We forgive ourselves for it because we understand the nuance that came with leaning more toward one side than the other. We offer grace when we can understand the other side, and we always understand both sides as they directly apply to us.
As we engage in the national dialogue about difficult topics such as education, race, politics, and ethics, I encourage us to offer the same grace to others as we offer ourselves. Let’s appreciate the Mrs. Hoffmiers of the world who teach us to reach for things beyond what we know, allowing for small seeds of change.