It is often said that March is the longest month for teachers. While I certainly agree, October is a close second.
By late October, plans that carried us through September with pomp and verve have all but run out, and there is a need to be taken out of the hustle and bustle. For the NYCAce community, such a checkpoint took the form of Halloween.
Planning our Halloween party began the first weekend of October. We decided to deck out the apartment as a makeshift Hogwarts (we can't seem to get away from the whole school thing).
Putting on Gryffindor robes, Christina and Danielle cast their decorating spells. At the same time, Tait and I worked hard to acquire the proper potions for the evening's festivities. There was a spirit of gratitude and joy as old and new friends met at our apartment to celebrate.
Of course, as Catholic school teachers, we know that Halloween really is a Christian Holiday (All Hallows' Eve or All Saints' Eve), and thus, there is a need to pull out all the stops; whatever pagan elements have found their way into the celebration are redeemed and made new in Christ and should remind us all the more of how we too—while we were still sinners—are taken up and made new in Him.
As we continue through November, a month dedicated to gratitude, starting with All Saints and All Souls Days, then Veterans Day, and then culminating with Thanksgiving and the start of Advent, we ought to contemplate just what it means to give thanks.
After all, many of us are struggling; with the death of Andy Watkins or other loved ones, with the realities of teaching in a broken world, or with our own finitude and fallenness. So often, being grateful and giving thanks is difficult. And if gratitude is a feeling, how can one possibly live it authentically in times of hardship?
Thankfully, our Gospel on the first Sunday of November pointed toward a different understanding of gratitude. In it, we see Jesus observing people come and go from the temple treasury. All of them are giving; yet, our Lord holds up the poor widow to his disciples.
I would venture to say some of us are that poor widow at the moment. We are that first-year teacher or administrator—head barely above water. Or the second-year teacher whose high hopes for year two have yet to materialize.
During this month of November, I believe we should seek in this poor widow our model for gratitude. In her, we learn that gratitude is not marked by output or an inward feeling of wholeness but by the measure we give ourselves away.
Let us look closer at this truth.
As Jesus sits at the temple, observing those giving money to the treasury, he is not watching some arbitrary collection of funds. For Jews, the temple was the meeting place between God and the world. What was given to the temple was then, in effect, given to God.
In this, we see what makes this poor widow different. It is not her poverty alone that Jesus affirms; it is her willingness to give all that she has over to God. To give from her "livelihood" and not just her surplus.
In holding nothing back from God, she recognizes the truth that all is from God and that all will return to God. Gratitude, after all, is not a feeling to be stored up; it is a posture of giving to the full measure that you have received.
So for those of us teachers or administrators looking to recharge this month, where can we give from our hardship and poverty?
Learn more about ACE Teaching Fellows at ace.nd.edu/teach