Ah, retirement. If anyone deserves to sit back, prop up her feet, and enjoy some relaxation, it’s my friend, Virginia. Saint Virginia (she doesn’t generally go by that name, but that’s what I call her) spent 30 years teaching restless, eager, chatty, thirsty, impatient, frequently runny-nosed first graders. That alone is a feat that, in my opinion, surpasses an Everest climb.
Even in retirement, however, Virginia’s love for children clearly has not faded. This year, she’s been spending two days per week tutoring a child who is living with his aunt in a foster situation. He and his siblings have struggled through childhood trials and all of the horrors that come along with being face to face with neglect. Rocky arrived for his first session with Virginia sporting dirty fingernails and threadbare clothing. His cow-licked hair and hesitant smile shot an arrow right through the soft spot in Virginia’s heart.
Week after week, Virginia dreams up new ways to encourage and challenge Rocky. She has carefully asked questions and gotten to know his likes and dislikes. She creatively presents the material and finds rewards and motivational tricks that she knows will spur him on to the next level. Most of all, though, Virginia is pouring into Rocky’s little heart and soul the truths of Scripture and the guiding principles that will carry him even further than simple reading, writing, and math skills ever could.
I suspect that Rocky has caught up with the class, maybe surpassed them, but Virginia wants to continue pouring in the truth of God’s love for him, the touch of another human who values him, and the never changing reality of a Heavenly Father who will never, under any circumstance, leave him or forsake him.
In thinking about Rocky, I can’t help but be reminded of what God has been teaching me as we develop our fostering ministry at North Point, and as our family continues our personal journey of fostering. These children are placed in our care for a season. Sometimes it’s short, and sometimes it’s longer. Either way, we are a “parenthesis” in their little lives. There is a beginning and there is an end.
So, how can we make the most of the “parenthesis” of time in order to take care of some serious physical needs, show God’s love, help heal wounds, begin the process of binding a broken heart, or just simply expose a child to different possibility for his or her future? That’s a question of utmost importance. The answer is different for each precious little one.
Regardless of the width of the parenthesis, what an honor and privilege it is to stand in that gap. It’s not easy; sometimes it’s not fun. But, most of the space between the parenthetical marks is full of an unexplainable joy.
Virginia is a providing a very rich “parenthesis” for Rocky. One from which he will never recover. Rocky will be 25 one day, and guess who he’ll remember? Virginia. He’ll remember her because she intentionally invested her time in a little boy who desperately needed to feel loved. He desperately needed to have a little vision cast for his future. And, he desperately needed be pointed to his Savior.