perder la vida

Learning to Live Missionally and Mindfully

My People. March 30, 2010

Filed under: creativity flowing,frustration,jesus,missional living,thinking — Katie @ 12:09 am

The past few weeks have been really hard on my emotions, body, social life, relationships, and all the other things that suffer when you’re stretched too thin. I waste what little truly free time I have because my brain is so fried that I can’t convince myself to be productive. But I also can’t convince myself to not be productive…. or at least I can’t convince myself that it’s okay to sit back and truly relax. The last day I had “free” where I could do whatever I wanted was the day I was sick several weeks ago… and I still did schoolwork and had to deal with the beginning of the end of my car. So, needless to say, I am in need of rest.

Today, I was about to break. Teaching and going to school plus having a life is all starting to get to me. But today some of my sweet students reminded me of my future as a teacher and of how the work I am doing now is all worth it. I try to bring a variety of books with me to 2nd grade for students to read when they have free time. Since testing is going on, the school day was a little more relaxed and there was plenty of time for free reading. My book selection today was a selection of poetry books. Two Langston Hughes books, a Caribbean poetry book, and a fun-read poetry book were the choices.

For about half an hour, I sat with five students… listening to them read beautiful poetry, question its “point,” and having them ask me to read poetry to them. It was the most beautiful moment of my entire time at Southview. I had no idea they’d be so interested in poetry… and interested in poetry that they didn’t necessarily understand. Hearing a struggling reader boldly read “Theme for English B” or the laughter of little boys when I explained the meaning behind “When Sue Wears Red” or the sweet song of a girl singing “Hey!”…. it just made my heart smile.

But the moment when I had to hold it together so I wouldn’t bust out in tears of thankfulness and adoration was when my little bitty ball of fire read “My People” with the passion and enthusiasm of a great orator. As she read, the uncomplicated words felt like a blanket around my worn-out soul… reminding me of the simplicity of the world and of the beauty of such magical moments.

“My People”

The night is beautiful,

So the faces of my people.

The stars are beautiful,

So the eyes of my people.

Beautiful, also, is the sun.

Beautiful, also, are the souls of my people.

– Langston Hughes


Back from the ‘boro March 18, 2010

Filed under: frustration,jesus,missional living,spirtual matters — Katie @ 2:28 pm

It’s Spring Break. WORD.

Originally, I had no Spring Break plans other than to sleep, relax, and catch up on schoolwork. Then I decided that was ridiculous. So after a brief chat with my mom, I thought that a trip to Greensboro (NC) would be a great idea. It WAS a great idea! It wasn’t a very long trip… but long enough to get away from Tuscaloosa, catch up with some great friends, and fall a little bit more in love with North Carolina.

What I realized about Greensboro during this trip is that it’s just a really big small town. As Greensboro has grown, it has built itself around existing buildings and homes. I’m sure many structures have been demolished over time to make way for growth, but many more remain. The downtown area is also not overwhelming… nowhere near the madness of Atlanta or Boston. Okay, I know those cities are much, much larger than Greensboro… but… that’s what I think of when I think of driving downtown! Anyway, I could go on and on about all the things I love about Greensboro.

But, what I loved most about this trip was our visit to the International Civil Rights Center & Museum (could they have chosen a longer name?). According to Alisa, Greensboro is where the civil rights movement began. 🙂 The museum is actually located in the old Woolworth’s department store building, which is where four young men from NC A&T protested the injustice of the continued practice of segregation. They began their protest on February 1, 1960. Within a week, students from other universities in the south began holding their own sit-ins. Within three months, the sit-in movement had swept the racially tense south and helped bring racial segregation to an end.

Since I am from the south and have experienced modern racism, I am fascinated by anything and everything to do with the civil rights movement. But, this museum moved me in an unexpected way.

The first exhibit featured a KKK robe and hood. I did not expect to see that… at all. It was in a dimly lit case and, at first, I didn’t notice it. I walked closer to the case to read an information board on an adjacent wall. Then, I realized I was standing right next to this disgusting artifact. Once I realized what it was, I almost broke down in tears right then and there! There is a part of me that is so ashamed of the people who came before me. None of my family was involved with the KKK… in fact, my great-grandfather (a rich landowner, farmer, and employer) set an example in our community for helping African-Americans. But, I still cringe whenever I see anything related to that awful organization. I wondered how I really would have felt about blacks during the 50’s and 60’s. Would I have been a friend? Would I have helped fight for civil rights? Or would I have fallen into the trap of ignorance like so many southern whites?

I could go on and on about the things I saw in the museum and how I feel and how I am constantly taking for granted the freedoms and civil liberties that we have now. Just being able to stand in the same room with people of all races is a major achievement. But, what I haven’t stopped thinking about since the visit is not about race at all. I started thinking about human trafficking and the fact that there are more people enslaved today in 2010 than there were before the American emancipation. I don’t think about it much because it’s not as prominent in the U.S. But, countries across the world are harboring and trading human beings for sex and labor. India alone has 40 million bonded slaves (the Dalits/Untouchables) working to pay off the debts of their ancestors.

I wonder what I can do… I wonder if I can do anything. I wonder why our attention has been on Iraq for so long when there are so many more people hurting across the world? I wonder why we are stuck on one civil rights movement (Though powerful! And important!) when our global brothers and sisters in our current day and time have no civil rights and no liberties are are being treated like animals. I wonder if things will ever change. To me, the problem seems so big that there may not be a solution. But I hope that as we become more aware of the realities of this world,  people will begin to take a stand the way those four young men took a stand for racial equality in a time of division and hatred. And maybe… just maybe… one day I will walk through the halls of a museum dedicated to the disenthrallment of slaves everywhere.

That was deep. 🙂


Tales from Second Grade March 13, 2010

Filed under: 1 — Katie @ 1:54 am

The fun never stops at Southview Elementary! The kids are constantly doing and saying things that simply crack me up. I know that all kids say things that are funny and cute, but these kids really have something going for them. Maybe it’s just because of the seriousness of their questions and comments… or maybe it’s just the way they say things. Yeah, I think that’s it. These kids have some attitude. Generally, I hate the attitude. But, when they say some of the things they say… the attitude’s where it’s at.

Moments from the past couple of weeks:

– Their surprised faces when I came to class on a Friday instead of a Monday or Tuesday (I had to make up a missed day)

– During lunch, one kid (we’ll call him T.I.) was asking about my son. Well, of course, I don’t have a son. So, then he said “Ms. Lewis, you got grandkids?”

Me: Do I look old enough to have grandkids?

T.I. & surrounding crew: YES!

– Tuesday, I read a short story that didn’t have pictures during reading. The story started off by saying that a little girl had a “chocolate Labrador puppy.” Like a brilliant teacher, I said “Class, does ‘chocolate’ mean that the dog was actually made out of chocolate?’” Of course, seeing that they are all African-American and quite familiar with slang, they yelled “No!! That’s just what color he is!” Yeah, I felt like an IDIOT!

– I got asked if I was pregnant today.

– It seems that I have a new tattoo every week… some days the one on my wrist is a cross. Other days it is an “A,” an “Alabama A,” a star, or chopsticks. No one’s said chopsticks, but that’s what I think it looks like sometimes.

Those are cute and funny stories… yes, I know.But the BEST comment that has been said this entire year goes as follows:

Scene: Hallway, end of day.

Set-up: All the second-graders are lined up ready to go home for the day. I have my marker out, threatening to change behavior “numbers” in their take-home folders if the kids misbehave. I have already given “the look” and some fierce-toned comments to misbehaving students. I get on to a couple more students… and then some kid comes and runs up at me and I stop him with my arm and he hangs on my arm…. Then I sternly tell him to go get back in line. Then, a kid in my class says this…

Statement: Ms. Lewis, you tough! You like a football player! Why yes, yes I am. Tough. Like a football player.


For all the things that don’t go wrong… March 11, 2010

Filed under: 1 — Katie @ 3:37 am

I admit that I am the first person to shake my fist at the sky when something goes wrong and give a big Rachele Whorley, “REALLY!? REALLY, GOD!?” when things aren’t going my way.

Just recently, when my car died a few weeks ago (in the middle of the street… while I had a 100.5 fever…), I just sat there and thought Seriously, God? Today? while I looked towards the heavens.

Sometimes, I take pride in this. I take pride in the fact that I am very honest with God. I have never been afraid to ask “Why?”. When I hear people say “Oh, that Sandra… when her house burned down and she and her family barely escaped, she never asked, ‘Why?’, she just kept going and did what she had to do.”

Well… I’m sorry. I’m not that person. I have asked “Why?” more than once. When my dad died, you can bet that I was asking some major “Why’s”. When I was sick and homebound for three weeks during Christmas 2008, I guarantee I threw up some “Why’s”. For some reason, I have always felt like this was a good thing. My feelings, good or bad, are presented to God in a raw (but probably inappropriate at times) manner and I clearly state my case before him.

But… what I often fail to do is thank God for all the things that don’t go wrong. During worship on Sunday, I just stood in amazement that the vast majority of the sound equipment was working. Have you ever been ready to play for a worship service only to have your sound equipment go out? Yeah, that’s a major stressor.

Then I thought about how many times (91 days worth of time over the past 5 years, to be more exact) I’ve been in my car and not wrecked. Then I thought about how I am not homeless even though my income last year was… well… let’s just say well below the poverty line. Then I thought about how I am not dying from some disease. Then I thought about all the times I did not realize I didn’t have my debit card after loading $100 worth of groceries onto the conveyor belt. Then I thought about all the times my dog did not get hit by a car while he gallivanted on the street unleashed. I thought about all the times my mom has not yelled at me.

This is so elementary… I know that I should be more thankful. And usually, I am thankful that certain things happen. But every now and then, I think I need to stop and thank God for all the things that haven’t gone wrong in my day….

Like today…

I did not hydroplane on Hwy 69. (P.S. “Water on bridge” means “RIVER OF RAINWATER ON THE BRIDGE”)

I was not totally late to math

It did not rain while I walked from class to class

I did not fall and bust my butt while walking on slippery sidewalks

My bank account did not bounce today (or hopefully any day this week)

I did not have to eat a $6 1/2 sandwich from the Shelby P.O.D.

The Graves snack machine was not out of Spicy Chipotle flavored Sun Chips

Okay, some of those are pretty silly… but, hey, those little things made my day a pretty decent one. 🙂

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18  “16Be joyful always; 17pray continually; 18give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”


Katie Lewis, breaker of racial barriers. March 2, 2010

Filed under: fun times,general information,mindful living — Katie @ 1:29 am

Today marked the start of my fourth week in my second grade placement. To be quite honest, I wasn’t sure I liked my placement at first. These kids are TOUGH. They have little attitudes and talk back and are NEVER doing anything wrong (it’s always someone else’s fault). But, I really have grown to love them. There are so many sweet moments throughout the day that remind me what I’m doing what I’m doing. Three or four of them came up and gave me these really big hugs today and, even though part of me is thinking “Get off of me… I am your teacher,” an even bigger part of me is savoring these sweet little moments and thankful that I have an opportunity to touch their lives in some small way.

In addition to my new-found sentimentality, there has also been a slew of hilarious moments. Last week at lunch, I talked to a few of my students about our favorite musicians. Since Michael Jackson’s death, young children everywhere have put him on some pedestal. They all said they like Michael Jackson – I think I impressed them when I said “Billie Jean” is my favorite MJ song. We talked about Beyonce, Alicia Keyes, Lil Wayne, Tupac… you know, the stars. 🙂 Today I talked to some kid about the Lakers/Nuggets game. ME. Katie Lewis. Talked about basketball.

Anyway…. so all of this has a point. Today at lunch, some of the kids and I were talking more about music and life. And then someone brought up skin color. I mentioned that some of my kids first assumed I was Chinese (because of my dark hair??), but other than that, no one has noticed that I’m the only white person in the room. The only reason this surprises me is because I’ve heard of the kindergarteners and 1st graders at this school flat-out tell their teachers that they didn’t have to listen to white people. So, I’ve been surprised not to have any problems out of my second graders regarding the color of my skin.

But today… man, today. They just about made me fall out of my chair. The kids were going around the table talking about how they were “brown” and then one of them looked at me and said, “Miss Lewis…. are you black or white?” I about died!! They had to ASK! I looked at them and said, “Now, what do you think?” Their response: “You’re white. Or maybe you’re just light-skinned.” WOW.

I guess the combination of my love for Tupac and my sass, they have been confused about my skin color. This has been one of the most surprising and also touching realizations of the semester. I am not one to necessarily care about skin color, but I have been concerned about how minorities react to a white teacher. I want to teach in low-income, racially diverse schools and…. well, I’m a well-to-do white girl. I have wondered, Will they respect me? Can I connect with them? Will they just see me as some white girl?

What I have learned over the past few weeks is that my skin color truly doesn’t matter. If I can connect with these kids and try to find common interests and try to be friendly (without being their friend – meaning, I maintain authority), then they could care less what color my skin is. I could be purple for all they care. If I don’t make a big deal of it, then they don’t make a big deal of it.

Maybe I should have known this all along, but… I really didn’t. I really expected forming relationships and gaining respect from these kids would be much more difficult. Part of me thinks that I was just given a good class with a good personality, but I wonder if what I’ve been doing (trying to connect with them) has actually helped. Either way, these kids have taught me so much already… and I’m so thankful for those 20 precious faces! 🙂