These teachers taught Bible and many professed faith. Many were kind and dedicated. The 8th grade Bible teacher who preached the loudest and justified the bizarre belief that instrumental worship was wicked? Not a nice man. Why was I loved by one who never mentioned Christ and discounted by one who couldn’t shut up? Is it what we say or what we do that matters? If only more people, myself included, would recognize the leverage of both. Love Letter – – part 8 from the beginning
As I completed 8th grade my parents realized that we were completing 5 years of separation. The Christian school had helped me avert crisis, but it was getting more expensive every year. More importantly, how long would the family tolerate separation? As an adult with sons I confronted my sweet father with this. “Why did you let us be away for so long?” Mom drove many of the decisions and put Dad’s stamp on them. He would never say that – – he was loyal. “I understand you would have lost a lot of money if we took a big loss on the house. Was that more important than us?” I’ll never forget his answer about 10 years ago. It was the day I completely forgave him. “I couldn’t see it then. I’m sorry.” And then he cried. I learned when P1 was still 6, P2 3 and P3 1 – – apologize to your son when you make a mistake. And – – its better if it doesn’t wait 15 years.
My Dad heard the news story first about a new high school in the medical center called Health Careers. It was actually in its second year when I was in eighth grade. They had only freshmen and sophomores (much like P1’s new magnet school) and were recruiting for the third graduating class. Dad’s apartment was not in the northside medical center. Dad’s apartment was in the south-San hood – – close to Kelly Air Force Base where he worked, close to a strange fenced campus called San Antonio State Hospital. The new school had a magnet model – – it didn’t matter which school district you were from – – they drew from all over San Antonio. I applied and was accepted. We traded Dad’s efficiency apartment in the sketchy area of town for a small one bedroom just two miles from school. Dad traded a 15 minute commute for 45 and I rode my bike. I loved the conversation that Russell and I had about bicycle commuting – – I’ve loved bikes since BMX! My father lovingly refurbished his old bicycle for me and I mowed more lawns to save for my own. They did so much right.
What happened in the first two years of high school? I thrived. I was in an environment very much like Mrs. Gibbon’s 6th grade English class although more so. Teachers and students alike were so excited to be there. A popular, beautiful, boisterous girl named Kim was elected class president within one month of us beginning. She had an established clique from a wealthy district that knew her from middle school. That sounded like the Hunger Games, didn’t it? I had learned my lesson well from quieter Kelly in middle school – – don’t pursue this kind of girl – – the beauty is veneer on particle board. I liked Tracy – – a happy, confident, smart and kind girl with a real jerk for an older brother. We were in all of the same classes. Honors English was again my favorite. How did that inform my teaching? Before we arrived a Summer reading assignment came – – a thick book – – The Once and Future King by T.H. White. I didn’t know any better so I read it. It didn’t occur to me that even when the pack narrows 90% of success is just showing up. I loved the Arthurian legend. We read as much for that Freshman English class as I would later read for a Shakespeare seminar in college. And we worked in project groups, me trying to join Tracy whenever possible.
I met Chris Alvarez, the best friend I would later betray. He was the classic multicultural kid. His father a hispanic Vietnam veteran, his mother a tiger mom war bride. My parents never drove me. It was completely different with Chris. He spoke Spanish, English, and Vietnamese but his native tongue was mathematics. His math was sublime. While I plugged and chugged, memorized and grinded – – he could see it. His creative gift with numbers equalled mine with language. We became yin and yang. He helped my math. I helped his language. He joined Tracy and I in the humanities (her strongest suit as well). We joined him in STEM. Another reason I like Russell? For us, help was a relative term. Tracy was content to excel, to pursue excellence. Her best was an “A”, she always achieved it and she was content. Chris and I were not that mature. We, and a few others, like Jenny and Heather only had our eyes on #1. In the words of Highlander, “In the end, there can be only one.” How did I betray Chris? In the end, I put my desire to win above our friendship. I didn’t cheat – – thank God I didn’t cheat – – but my heart was shallow water and I did not love him as a brother should. In knowing me, did I draw him to Christ? I am still ashamed.
-to be continued-
Photo credit: Handwritten letter by Descarte: by PHGCOM [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) via Wikimedia Commons