Archive for January 10th, 2005


The Teachable Moment

January 10, 2005

Dedicated to the memory of Robin Bookston


As a teacher, I always look for the teachable moment.
But where is the teachable moment in this?
What lesson can my students gain from this tragedy:
Love will conquer all?
Ask for help and you can receive it?
I will always be ready to hear your call?
Suicide doesn’t solve anything?
Obviously these are lessons that come too late;
These are lessons I never taught and you never learned.

Together we studied the Holocaust, Anne Frank,
Images of Jews in movies and television,
Jewish law.

But did we ever study each other?
Did I ever tell you what special qualities I saw in you?
Your beauty?  Your radiance?  Your inner peace?

I remember in your Senior year in High School how you came to me at dinner one night,
So confident and self-assured,
And presented me with a package –
“Something small,” you said,
“I saw it in a second-hand store and thought of you.”
Imagine my surprise and how deeply you touched me.
A gift that was more than the Mickey Mouse tie I wear today to your funeral.

I remember your sense of social action and social justice.
Working together in a Public School in Dorchester,
Or a housing project in Roxbury,
Painting, sweeping, stirring others with your commitment to Tikkun Olam.

I remember your courage,
Speaking to teenagers about your sexual orientation.
Unafraid to share your struggle in hopes that others wouldn’t have to struggle.

You were a leader,
A role model,
A good person,
A mensch.

My heart, my mind, my body
Scream “Why?”

But there is no answer – no one answers.
No one can answer.

And all I am left with is another teachable moment.

What do I do with it now?
What lesson can I teach?
What lesson were you trying to teach us?

This week I started teaching this year’s students:
Eager, bright, committed, ready to learn.
Last May I said goodbye to some of last year’s students:
Headed off to college and ready to tackle the world.

Am I too late?
Did I miss the opportunity again?
Did I miss the teachable moment?

I hope not…


Thanksgiving and Charlie Brown

January 10, 2005


I smell the damp, dewy scent of fallen leaves,
As I watch them, red and yellow and orange,
Twirling in the sky,
I see the pregnant clouds,
Puffy, bloated, ready to unleash gentle flakes of newly fallen snow,
Dripping, cascading from the sky in near perfection.

I think of Charlie Brown,
And the T.V. special I watched when I was younger.
The many Thanksgivings that were only complete with his presence.
I think of all the past years,
The turkey, the long table, the friendly company.
I think of Snoopy
All alone (but with Woodstock, always with Woodstock)
Spending his Thanksgiving in a snow-covered dog-house
Left behind.

I return to the clouds, the snow,
Amazed at their torrent,
The way the snow blankets the ground, renewing it with whiteness.
I close my eyes and breathe the warmth of the holiday.
The good cheer, the toasts, the splendor, the thankfulness.

I open my eyes and sense the hungry in the streets, the poor in our alleyways.
A million Snoopys without a yellow companion
Spending their time in their own snow-covered dog-houses.
Can I ever know your sorrow, Snoopy?  Your joy?
Do you have anything this year to make you thankful?
I’ve never been alone or hungry or without a reason to give thanks.
I bow my head and pray for you, Snoopy, on this day of Thanksgiving,
I pray for an end to your hopelessness and your sorrow

And I also pray for myself.
And give thanks for all God’s blessings.

On this beautiful, sharp, snow-covered day I give thanks
And remember.