This is the question I heard when I told people that I was staying in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “Why Oklahoma?” Good question. If I’d moved back home to mostly sunny Sacramento, California, I would’ve been taken care of. Here? I think 50 degrees is freezing. Most of my Oklahoma friends (my “Oklahomies”) are either religious sisters or married women. I eat crackers and cheese for lunch four days in a row because I just paid a mortgage, but I can’t be at home because I’m coaching, directing, grading, or planning. So why’d I stay a third year at Saint Catherine School?
My two years in ACE were the most formative, trying years of my life. I remember sitting with Katie Caprez, one of my ACE 23 mentees from this summer. Exhausted, she said to me: “I’ve had a lot of jobs: worked at a children’s hospital, taught ESL students, interned at Capitol Hill. But this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” I agree, and this is especially true in my post-ACE teaching career, my year of being “a real person.” My life is barely together, and yet I’m in charge of the lives of 38 pre-pubescents.
So why not take what I learned back to California? Or anywhere else? Why not try a different experience while I’m able? Why stay barely afloat, on my own, when I can go somewhere where I know I can swim, or at least have other people that can throw me a lifeline? (Can you tell that I’m an English teacher?)
The reason is, even though I’m athletic director, coach, and scorekeeper for four teams and two sports simultaneously; even though I have early mornings, late nights, and desk naps; even though the only time I’m at my house is when I’m sleeping; even though I’m stressing about failing students two weeks into the quarter, my love for the school outweighs the stresses and worries.
I am reminded of what Ruth said to her mother-in-law, Naomi: "Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go…Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God” (Ruth 1:16). Saint Catherine is the Naomi to my Ruth. I mourned with my students when the art teacher, a sister, told us that she was leaving the religious life; I laughed uncontrollably with my students when we watched awkward Voldemort moments; I was inspired to fight harder for a playground grant when some neighborhood kids vandalized the school; I thanked God with my faculty when an angry atheist student won the Christian Service Award because he learned to let God in a little bit through his service to the school. My heart swells with joy for Saint Catherine, and there are many times (including right now) when I’m moved to tears thinking about it.
Paul says in Corinthians that “If I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own ... but do not have love, I gain nothing.” I have taken on many roles at Saint Catherine, but I took them not just because those were jobs assigned to me, or because the St. Martha/Leslie Knope in me craves logistics and organization. I chose to overexert myself out of love for my school. I have found a home at Saint Catherine.
So I agree with Katie. This IS the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But it’s the most love-filled thing that’s happened to me thus far. That is why I stayed.