When failure is worth it

On any given day, I fail to meet expectations of SOMEONE.

On every given day, I fail to meet the expectations of MYSELF.

My goodness, as a teacher and a mom of two young kids and a wife and a board member and a writer and a friend and a sister and a daughter and this list could go on and on and on and on, there is no way to keep up.

Phone calls go unanswered, text threads are picked up days later, I have 92 unread or unanswered emails in my inbox which is SO NOT LIKE ME, I can’t keep up with Facebook notifications, I’m missing contest deadlines, and my husband is reminding me I promised him I’d edit something for him, and my daughter is asking me when I will go watch Anne with an E with her like I said I would.

And the minute–the very minute I let one thing slip, I hear about it. In no uncertain terms, I am told that I have failed.

I carry this around with me. I carry the unmet expectations and the fear of messing up and the knowledge that no matter how hard I try, I am letting somebody down.

But–BUT–you guys. It is all worth it. It is. Because every once in a while, something comes along that reminds you that your struggle matters. Your struggle to keep up has paid off because somehow along the way you have made an impact. You’ve touched someone. You’ve given someone hope or strength.

I teach 4th grade, and I get Christmas gifts. I’m very lucky. It’s not every kid, but it’s most of the kids, and they get me incredibly thoughtful things like gift cards and candy and classroom decorations and my coveted Harry Potter Pop figures.

They are seriously so thoughtful, that sometimes I just can’t handle how much they listen to what I say and they remember it and pass it on to their parents. It’s humbling.

But then, every so often, there are gifts that just wreck me. On the day before break, one of my students came up to me and handed me this box:


He grinned at me, and stood there waiting for me to open it. This boy, he’s incredible. He’s sweet, and kind and smart.

I have to say that I was surprised to get a gift from him. Why? Because kids don’t have money, parents do, and parents are who give gifts to teachers (based on what their kids pick out sometimes, sometimes not). And in this family, like a LOT of the families at my school, I just happen to know that they don’t have extra money for spending. At all.

So, he hands me this box and says, “I think you’re going to love these. They are so pretty!”

And then … and then, I opened it up to see this:

I managed a thank-you, and gave him a hug and as soon as he was in the classroom, I started ugly crying and had to go hide in the computer lab.

You and I both know that this box of candle sticks came from a rummage sale. The yellowing newspaper (the date on one of the pieces was 2008). Or from the dollar tree, or just wherever. They were yellowed and full of dust, and one of them had a half-burned candle still inside.

And yet, it was the most beautiful gift.

The gift of knowing that this child wanted to do something kind for me so badly that he (I’m inferring here) scoured the house, found these old candle holders in a shoebox, and decorated it for me.

There was a note inside, too and it simply said:

“Merry Christmas, Mrs. W. You are my best teacher. You make me feel safe. Love, …”

The love of a child. The very best gift that there ever could be. So simple.

So humbling.

So extraordinary.

That makes the struggle worth it. A million times over.

Hang in there, teachers and mamas and wives and daughters and pastors and uncles. You might mess up. You might let people down. But you gotta keep going, for all the ways that you make change. For all the ways that you fill hearts of little people. For ALL the ways you give hope.

You got this!