I think it started this morning when I was looking at a photo of some of my old students. I was sipping my morning coffee after a breakfast of Cheerios and Kix (I couldn't decide which, so I had both) when suddenly I was overcome by the desire to be in China again with those kids in the photo.
It's a picture we took of my 9-11 year old students for publicity purposes, to make fliers and advertisements for our school. The colored papers on the wall in the background are covered in smiley-face stickers and shiny stars - my system for rewarding good behavior. The kids are attentive and look eager to learn as they raise their hands to answer a question. Even my roly-poly 9-year-old troublemaker who always sits on the far right (closest to the door) looks like a good student in that photo!
A photo can be deceiving. It only shows one brief, silent, motionless moment of life. When you look at this photo, you can't see Rudy's mischievious pranks on the girls, or Daniel's continuous squirming. You can't hear Sally and Diana's incessant giggles, or David's whispered jokes to Rudy. And you can't feel the alternating moments of frustration, weariness, and pure joy that overwhelm you as you attempt to teach English vocabulary and share the Father's love with these wiggly, inattentive, yet loveable children.
So this morning, as I drank my coffee at the dining room table in my parents' house in Virginia Beach, my heart was in a small city in northeast China. Once again I was in a noisy classroom with unpredictable kids who often drove me crazy and made me want to give up teaching forever. But there were moments which I often forget - moments like this one in the photo, in which everyone is attentive, everyone is obedient, everyone is focused, everyone is happy.
And even though I know that moment is one in a million, that one moment makes me want to hop on a plane and fly back to the East, just to hug those crazy kids again. And I just might.