“The Wonder of It All”…

A dear friend once gave me a card that said “Never lose your sense of wonder.” Coming from her, this encouragement carries great weight for me; it becomes an inspiration because it reflects a life grounded in both reality and wonder. Though nearing retirement and a veteran of more than her fair share of life’s challenges, she’s never lost her curiosity and amazement with life and the Lord. I came to know her as my mentor and friend when I moved to the town where I began my first long-term teaching job. She taught high school, and helped me learn to do the same. Her contagious vivacity and wit, as well as natural way of connecting and empathizing with youth, make people assume she’s twenty years younger than she actually is. She always downplays her own role in this, claiming that teaching keeps us young. Indeed, I have found this to be true, but most especially so when we as teachers are willing to be affected by all those we teach. She’s ever-willing, and because she is, her life in turn, has profoundly affected those of the students she taught.
Though we no longer teach together, I still consider her my mentor. As a teacher and a person, she is a force as awesome and resilient as nature herself. There are powerful influences in her life that have often attempted to determine and shape her reality, but she has staunchly refused to acquiesce.  Though at times her circumstances have seemed challenging, she faithfully cultivates joy one day at a time, continuously searches for reasons to laugh, walks determinedly in faith and not by sight, and pursues connections that pull her into spheres of positivity. I’ve known her almost ten years now, and in that time, she’s adopted me, welcoming me into her home and family as if I were a second daughter. When I became sick with a chronic illness, she cared for me. She has seen and understood me at the times where it seemed like few others could. She has refused to let me give up or give in to negativity, most effectively by her own example. Edith Wharton, the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Literature, once said something that seems to purposefully describe my friend: “One can remain alive  long past the usual date of expiration, if one is unafraid of change, happy in small ways, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, and interested in big things.” My wonderful friend has lived in such a way, and therefore, remains not just alive, but ALIVE.  In other words, my friend lives out God’s granting of another’s request: “I do not ask to know the reason for it all; I ask only, to know the wonder of it all” (Heschel, Abraham). May we all be continually captivated by the wonder of it all.

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