“Walk, don’t push.” Ericka cautioned her rowdy line of 4th graders who looked like a swarm of bees heading to the cafeteria.
She caught sight of a rowdy boy with a hundred untamed cowlicks pretending to be a plane. She smiled in appreciation half wishing she had the guts to mimic him on such a perfect day.
Josh’s lunch bag was held tightly between his teeth as his mouth parted slightly to let the guttural sounds of a 747 escape. His arms were at 90 degree angles on either side of his slender body.
“Mayday! Mayday! Enemy forces have attacked on my left flank. I am heading in for a crash landing.” He dropped his hands suddenly to his side. His lunch still dangling from his mouth.
Ericka Jordan caught up with the boy. Her blue eyes caught his with a mischievous twinkle. “Great job out there in the wild blue yonder, Josh, but its time to settle back in line and walk to the lunch room, okay?”
Josh nodded while looking sheepishly at Miss Jordan. Man, she was pretty.
Ericka Jordan stood back and watched her ducklings keep walking. How long had it been? She wondered. Her first year at this school was a disaster. These kids weren’t willing to let an outsider in. The fiercely independent nature that came with too much threat and too little protection from adults who cared had created children who questioned every ounce of love and hungered with seeming indifference for drops of appreciation and affection. It was only acts of God that had kept her from quitting.
“Why them”, Ericka’s mom had asked when she had unveiled her plan to volunteer for a new pilot program for young teachers. “You know that it is going to be hard enough for your first year. Why make it even more difficult on yourself; caring about a bunch of kids that won’t ever care about you, your teaching or ever making anything of themselves? They are just punks, Ericka. Forget about them and move to a better school district – one that’s got all the funding.”
Ericka found it hard to explain to her mom, or anyone for that matter, why she cared about the kids with “hubcaps in their backpacks”. She just knew that this was where God had wanted her to go.
She thought about those first few years and how the Life of Ruth had inspired her. Your people shall be my people. She thought about Courtney and Tanisha.
“Whatcha do to my sister?” Tanisha had interrogated after having cornered her in her classroom.
Ericka wasn’t sure what to say. She remembered how mid-semester Courtney had hugged her “I want to be a teacher like you when I get bigger.” Where you go, I will go.
“She’s different. She ain’t sad no more. I axed you what you did.”
Ericka decided to take a chance and just tell the girl that she tried to teach Courtney and make sure that each child knew that they were special to her and that she cared about them, and always would.
Tanisha had looked at her with the sad eyes of a hungry little girl in a half-grown body. Ericka had seen that look before in many of the older “hubcap/backpack” kids – the angry, disappointed look that simply said, “I wish someone had loved me like that.”
That day, Tanisha had become a part of Ericka’s new family. In more ways than one as the two of them became sisters in a faith with the same Heavenly father. Your God, my God.
Ericka had lost count of the moments where God had reassured her that she had made the right decisions in her walk as a Christian teacher in place where most thought God was extinct.
Even her mom had come around, finally realizing that her daughter was born for this. As she had sat in many an audience, watching these inner city kids come to life on stage she realized why Ericka had called the kids “her kids” and referred to their extended families as “my people”.
Ericka smiled in reflection at the image of her mom surrounded by a sea of multi-colored faces very different from her own. As she sat down at a lunch table suddenly surrounded by a similar mosaic tribute to life and potential she thought to herself; Where you go, I will go. Your people shall be my people. Your God, My God.
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