In this time marked by the disintegration of morality in our politically frayed America, where hateful politicians posing as caring humans justify their inhumane practices by treating children with the cold abuse of a Nazi, we must hold on to hope. That fragile and slender of emotions that alone fuels my soul, and no doubt yours, hope, elusive yet necessary. Thankfully for me, this past week, there is the reminder, where there is love one can find hope. Of course there is the always love of family, of sunshine and water, of a cool breeze after a hard day, but in this crazy here and now, I find the love of these friends. Friends who arrived from luck yet stayed dear through the years. Without a falter, these women are there. Yes, lucky me indeed. They provide me hope to endure.
For nearly a decade every June we have all traveled to where ever we must to grade AP English Literature essays. Mostly Louisville, but now Kansas City. Of course there are about 1000 other readers of English, but we have stayed a tight, although not exclusive, circle of friends. There have been elections and deceptions, job changes and address changes, family deaths and new additions, but all along the way, frank conversations about our work with students, our struggles with living, our travels to dream locations, and just hours of laughter. What is it about true friends, those who come together for the craziest of reasons, an impossible task perhaps, yet who cling together for years upon years?
It’s as if time has stood still when we first get off that airport bus and head to the hotel, chatting about the school year, facing the grueling week of scoring ahead by sharing a barbecue dinner and a local bourbon. Filling each other in on the newest joy and trying challenge. You know, those real remarks you make with people who know your core. Like nothing changed. As if the year of seasons flew by. And here you are all over again with so much to tell. To share. To listen. In earnest.
These scoring weeks weren’t always precious to me, or easy. I have discovered that I am more private, and more difficult, that others. I dread the seven days of sitting to read hundreds and hundreds of student essays. I anguish over the convention hall meals, the racing between, but these women, just smooth my angst. They teach me acceptance. They show me love, regardless. Year after year they remind me of what is truly important in our work as teachers. In public schools. With all the trauma. With all the madness. With the overload of papers and students and hours and expectations and still low pay. So, yeah, they keep me coming back. They remind me to love my job. My life’s work. And my week with them. Posing after a fancy dinner, like we are something special. Like what we do matters are much as we dream it does. Like hope feels. With friends.