First June morning. Outside, light streaks across the sky, announcing the arrival of a new day. Change is on the horizon.
This week is a transitional week. Students celebrated the end of another school year at last Friday's boat party on Lake Travis, seniors walked the aisle of Hill Country's worship center on Saturday morning. Throughout the weekend shouts were heard and tears were shed and dances were danced. And this morning, tired but accomplished people called teachers will convene, coffee in hand, for a few days of reflection before the freedom embraces us like a well-loved, long-missed friend. We're almost there...
But for some of us, it's more of a transition than others. I'm actually not talking about that seven pound baby in my belly and what's going to happen in my life later, on another June morning- or afternoon, or middle of the night for that matter. Time for that comes later. This is about someone else, entirely.
Last night, there was a graduation party, and my swollen feet carried me out the door, smile on my face, around 9:30PM, leaving behind my party-partner for the last two years. For me, there will be other chances to dance. But for her, it was the last time. Last night to be surrounded by students, music blaring, silly faces staring, smiles and laughter contagious. If you're part of our Hill Country community, you know who I'm talking about- the one and the only- Robin Inks.
Robin has not only been my party-partner the past few years, literally traveling with me around the globe to eat food, drink Sangria (well, half of one at least) and dance the night away at countless locations, with hundreds of faces, she has been my co-laborer, my need-sharer, my burden-bearer, and a person who has, in her own way, untwisted parts of my life that have been remolded into something better- something good.
If you know her, you already know what I'm talking about. Whether you're another teacher, a parent or a student at Hill Country, there's very little chance that you've been unaffected by this blonde-haired Spanish teacher whose insatiable love for life and unrelenting love for people have not laughed, hugged, cried or prayed their way into your life. And, if you're honest, you know you're changed because of it.
I've written this on here before, I'm awful at good-byes, actually pretty terrible at expressing emotion in general, but I have to say all this, broken as it might come out. Because, the truth is, that even though I'm still pretty bad at good-byes, at hugs, at tears, etc. I'm a whole lot better at them after having been friends with Robin. Robin teaches Spanish, right? Sort of. Sure, she teaches Spanish in her classroom. I've heard students flex their second language, courtesy of Robin Inks, in the Dominican Republic and Spain. I know she teaches them things like the preterite, the imperfect, "ir plus a plus the infinitive" is something I've heard a few times. ;) They do projects and learn about other cultures. So you might think, why is a Spanish teacher moving to Moscow to teach English to four and five years olds? Might not make much sense if you think that Robin just teaches Spanish. But, really, Robin teaches people how to love, and how to be loved. With skill that could never be written down in a lesson plan book, she intrinsically knows how to love students who might not love themselves, students who other teachers (including teachers like me) might not see, might be tempted to love a little less or overlook a little more. From the valedictorian to the class clown, she sees them, she loves them and she'll bring love out of them, if you just give her a school year. Love for her, love for others, and sometimes, when it's necessary a little love for themselves. This is why she can go to Moscow, because this is what she really does, and this, she can do anywhere, and let's be honest, everywhere needs a teacher like that.
I'm a science teacher, right? Yes, very much so. I think in cycles, in cause and effect relationships, I analyze and then connect. I have a to-do list that starts in late July and ends in early June. I am not Robin, despite what Federico Mota, who has accused us of being the same person, might think. But how I have been blessed by the undoing of some of that drive, some of that "get-it-doneness" because of my friendship with the teacher across the portable. Robin has taught me some Spanish, too, helped me brush it up, even encouraged me to take on some French. But really, at the end of the day, she taught me love too. Who could avoid this lesson, as you travel through life and across oceans with Robin? You literally cannot live life shoulder to shoulder with her and keep your own agenda- because she will inevitably stop and chat with a hundred people along the way, and your agenda will not survive, but your sense of purpose will. It will, in fact, to use a word from the language that I teach- evolve. And that's what's happened to me, under the influence of my friend, who sees people, who sacrifices for them, in words, in deed, in prayer, in boldness. Who opens her life and her schedule and her heart over and over and over again for others. I'm still the way God made me, driven, focused, at risk of valuing the deadline instead of the journey. But, if you only knew how much that had changed. My life has an openness now that it didn't before I knew Robin. When I hug, it's a lot tighter, it's a lot longer. When I laugh, it's a lot deeper and for sillier reasons. When I pray, it's more often, and for needs I'm privileged to even be invited into. When I see students, I take first, then second, then third, then maybe a whole lot more looks at them, trying to see the beauty inside. If Robin can find it, then, Lord willing, I can too.
We talk to students who walk across stages about legacy, but what about teachers? Robin, this is me talking to you about yours. You leave a legacy of love. I know that you're quick to give credit to others who have taught you to love, and good for you, friend. Thank you for passing that love on to me, and to everyone else. How much richer we are because of you, because of your generosity in love.
The light is bright now, and it's time for me to go. When I get to school, I'll find my friend, and we'll sit and laugh together a few days more. Good-byes are hard. But they can be good. Good-byes mean that what is good about each other, what we cultivated and grew in each other's presence, is passed on to other places in the world. Robin has taught me to laugh, to love, to live and to enjoy this kingdom work God's called me to in Austin, Texas. She will take her gifts to Russia, teach other people, shine like this bright June morning into their lives. And I know that like me, they will be changed- changed for the better. I know they will be changed for good.