I stood in the doorway of my classroom. Behind me was the window that provided a vista to the bird’s nest. My students and I had watched as the mother bird first prepared her nest then laid her eggs. Ahead of me were two very rude upperclassmen. Neither was in any of my classes. Both had recently sought out then accosted me in the hall. Round one of discussions was their request to see the eggs in the nest followed by my answer of no. Then, I quickly moved to a better position physically barring entry.
One student said, “Dr. Flavin, we will be good. We will be quiet. We, too, want to see the mother bird and her eggs.” The other student said, “We won’t frighten the bird. We will not ruin this. We promise.” I felt the students fully deserved to be sent on their way. The response of “Thank you, but no” followed by closing the locked door was very appealing.
To understand my hesitancy, you have to get a feel for the context. A fellow educator bought friendship with the students by providing students a forum where they were rewarded for disrespecting other faculty. The administration could not or would not stop this. The result was encouragement of atrocious student behaviors.
I knew that if I did not show them, then the students would sneak into my classroom. Yet, if I shared the nest with them, they might keep coming back. My thoughts reached, “You boys will most definitely not be part of this special moment. I will not let you.” I was amazed at the depth of my emotions.
Immediately, I realized that such thoughts were the beginning and essence of marginalization. Such behaviors are never in line with Jesus’ words to treat our neighbor with loving kindness. I felt God’s whisper of “You know the path of joy. Will you choose it?” At that moment, I was not sure I had the patience or courage to imitate the Prince of Peace.
I slowly backed away from the entrance. In doing so, I stepped away from being their judge back to being a fellow traveler. Conscious of my responsibilities as educator, I guided the boys to the window. Based upon their past behaviors, I had expected the worst. What I saw in the boys, however, was inquisitiveness and wonder. The three of us silently stood together in awe of the new life God had brought into the world.
The boys left my classroom with a quiet chorus of “Thank you, Dr. Flavin.” I was thanking our Lord when one boy’s head popped back into my doorway. He gently said, “Hey Dr. Flavin, I am sorry.” He ran off. Wow! I had witnessed God touching a human heart and the immediacy of the loving response.
The Christmas season is all about becoming more open to welcoming God’s infinite agape (love) into our hearts. When we do so, we are instantly changed. So is our world.
During Advent, we heard Isaiah’s stunning words about the leopard and the kid or the calf and the lion (Is 11:6-8). All of them living in peace and harmony with a little child to guide them. The imagery is of the amazing world possible when sin has been vanquished. That little child is of course the Savior Jesus.
As I stood before a Nativity, instead of those animal images, I often remembered those boys. What had seemed humanly insurmountable (charity on their part and forgiveness on mine) was accomplished in an instant. Each of us decided to trust in God and then chose to share God’s love with each other.
We live in a world between the first and second comings of Christ. We are called to live fully yet await what will be. Each time we walk away from temptation each time we repent then receive forgiveness for our sins, we assist God in bringing about His Kingdom.
Jesus directed us towards a powerful beacon that will always guide us to await in harmony with all of God’s creation: when He asked us to let the children come to Him (Mt 19:14). A child-like heart is to be cultivated in each of us a heart open to wonder, awe, and sharing God’s love.
I remember an image from the “Twilight Zone.’’ Imagine a lifeless toy doll. Then, watch as a child’s love brings that doll to life. In essence, “In the arms of children, there can be nothing but love.” God is within each of us. We each can be that child bringing and sharing God’s love with the world. When we choose to do so, we are a ray of light shining through the darkness.
In quiet stillness, like that of the recent Christmas pre-dawn darkness, may each heart hear the quiet whisper of the call, “The meaning of Christmas is found always in the love people share.”
Anchor columnist Dr. Helen J. Flavin, Ph.D., is a Catholic scientist, educator and writer.