2020 - 3rd Sunday of Advent - Firm and Steadfast Joy
Firm and Steadfast Joy
Lindsay Baca, Kristin Cullinan, Nick Hughes, and Sean James
ACE 27 Teaching Fellows - Detroit
If you wandered into the new ACE house in midtown Detroit, you would be greeted by a massive, aged wooden table as you enter the house and dining room. At first, all you see is a table, just as the four of us did when we arrived in early August. As the first ACE community in Detroit, we faced the obstacles and hurdles common to first-year houses, such as navigating a new city and community, and preparing lessons without any help from second-year ACErs. Detroit was unfamiliar, and so were the expectations and routines at each of our schools. Between wearing masks while teaching all day and making sure students wore their masks while learning all day, the first few weeks were more than a little hectic.
But in just five short months, this table has become a steadfast, centering point in our lives. It’s played host to countless community dinners, venting sessions after long days at work, late nights of lesson planning, and most importantly, the endless laughs and tears as we shared the innocence of children’s words and actions and swapped stories about our first weeks as teachers. Through all of the frustrations and uncertainties of the first few months, our community commitment to dinner together remained strong, bringing a sense of joy to what often was a challenging time.
On the surface, community dinner started as the one day a week when you could come home after a long day and know you wouldn’t be responsible for food that night. (Phew!) But as time passed, it became evident that community dinners grew into a time of familiarity – the one firm commitment that was going to happen no matter the circumstances of the week. As we learned from the struggles of our first year in the classroom, and the challenging realities that so many of our students face each day, we knew that community dinner would provide a space of comfort and joy. Someone had a bad day at work? Enchiladas and rice were ready by 6:30 p.m. Someone had a great day watching students finally connect the dots of a lesson? Homemade tomato soup and grilled cheese were ready by 7 p.m. These dinners became a source of joy for all of us; they were the times that we know the consolations and desolations of the day and week would be shared as a community, not burdened by only an individual. In short, community dinner is a steadfast reminder that joy is found in community with others around our dining room table.
The Gospel reading from Matthew 11 gives us hope this Advent season. Jesus tells the disciples of John the Baptist, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk...and the poor have good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.” Jesus is the living witness of God’s call to live our lives for His glory through our actions. As ACE teachers, we are called to be present and committed to the lives of our students, their families, and our community members. In a time of uncertainty and an Advent season when many will be spending more time alone than normal, it is essential to remember that we are called to be present in each other’s lives, even if we cannot physically be present this year. As ACE teachers, we are like the tables around which so many of us share our meals with others: firm and steadfast, always present and a place where joy and community can thrive. Each one of us can be a place of community and joy for our students, their families, and our ACE communities this Advent season.