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Sunday, May 05, 2013

Surprise on Sunday

It's the usual summer Sunday. The day begins with many plans. Groceries are to be bought and cleaning to be done. Old things to be discarded and new fixtures to be installed. Before you know it the heat has got into your head and under your skin and burnt your good intentions to a fine crisp, no smoke even. Going out into the intensity of the growing afternoon is now completely ruled out. And I sit at my computer screen and decide to catch up on that paper that is refusing to write itself, that demands more attention than I have been willing to give it. Sentence by short sentence, I make progress, and it begins to take shape...more in my mind than in MS Word, but nevertheless, I am beginning to discern its outline.

The bell rings and my somnolent daughter is roused to go answer it. She comes back quickly with a question on her face and a slightly embarrassed smile: the visitors are for me. Something that happens only rarely.

The three young people at the door are smiling and laughing at my surprise. Three young people whom I feel like I met only a few days ago, have come to say goodbye.

When we come to the end of an academic year, the overwhelming feeling is one of relief. Finally, you can put away the notes and the schedules, throw that red-ink pen aside, and organize your days on your own terms. No more reading through indifferent answer scripts and hastily (and often shoddily) written essays. No more preparing for classes only to be disappointed by the response, or lack of it. No more wondering whether it's you, the system, or something else that is to blame.

For a few weeks, at least. Until the new academic year begins and the same thing starts all over again.

But occasionally, the end of the year is also a time of sadness, when you say goodbye to a group of students, a few of whom helped make the classes meaningful, who took the trouble to connect, some of whom you may not see again. It's those few who make the teacher's journey worthwhile and it's the possibility of others like them that keep you looking forward to the next session.

So when these three showed up on my doorstep this Sunday, with an hour to spare before they dashed off to the station to catch a train (one of them was leaving the city), I was more than pleased. When young people take the time and the effort to stop by and say hello (or goodbye), it does mean a lot. After all, they could have just as easily spent that half hour over a cup of cold coffee at the nearest cafe, or meeting other friends of their own age group. Instead, we spent that half hour reminiscing about their time at the University, talking about their plans for the future, and chatting about things that get left in the margins of classroom notes. It didn't feel like a goodbye as much as a catching up.

Sometimes, when you set aside that trip to the grocery store and just stay home on a Sunday, it can be worth it.

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