Current/Recent Reading List

24 February 2009

Why Lent Matters

We've been reading Greek stories in my honors class, and the story of Perseus and his many heroic feats (in heroic sandals, I might add - get it? get it?) was one of the most popular with the group. As an extension assignment, I asked the class to write about the "Medusas" in their life they need to slay, and how and why they need to do this. I also told them that I wanted them to be totally honest about this, but if what they had written was too personal, they could put it in an envelope marked "Do Not Read", and I would trust that they did it (and honor their request of course).

Well, I did get about five envelopes - and yes, I believe that they really wrote the paper - but most everyone else was willing to share. Much of what I got was standard teen anxiety, such as worries about measuring up to expectations, or figuring out which social groups are the right fit. But there were also much darker stories shared, the kind of stories that almost make the world stop for a few moments.

I read a long paper from a girl who hasn't seen her mother in a year. This is the same mother who has been through four boyfriends over the course of this girl's sixteen years, who once had to go to the hospital after one of the boyfriends beat the crap out of her, which her girl vividly remembers. Upon last seeing her daughter, this mother showed more affection for her latest boyfriend's children than for her own, leaving the girl in tears. That will never go away.

And there was a beautifully written paper from another girl telling about how her life has fallen apart since only October, when she moved in with her mother. She writes about finally facing "reality", which for her means that people are essentially selfish and that the best way to make it through is to "not care about anything or give a crap about anyone." She's been in therapy, is taking antidepressants, has been in fights, and has failed classes. From her demeanor in class, I never would have guessed any of this.

So we come to that time of year when we give special heed to our own sinfulness, our own damned and damning selfishness, and when we do, we need to pay heed to the "least of these" who always suffer the most for it. But we do so not out of morbidity, not because of allegiance to death and darkness. We do so because there is Hope on the other side, blessed Hope. I hope our lost children, despite our best efforts, still know it's there.

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