By The Time They Get To You

Eight years ago, my teaching mentor described the teacher’s role in the classroom as an intervening presence.

How strange! How powerful! How wonderful!

The phrase resonated so deeply with me as I understood it then. In other words, the student meets a professor, and the professor somehow, in some way, intervenes so as to alter a course of events in that student. 

It was true. I could list every teacher I ever had and tell you exactly how they changed me. Mrs. Mayo picked my essay as the winner for Arbor Day, and I became a writer that day. Mrs. Guiles intervened and told me the difference between a weak verb and a strong one, and I became a grammarian that day. Mr. Outka used the word “sublime” in class, and that day, I became a Romanticist. I could go on. I could go on and on and on about the people God used on my path to intervene–to change my direction–forever.

I also had people intervene on my path to warn, to rebuke, and to rescue.

And now here I am, older on the path as the younger folks arrive. We meet. What does our interaction do for this person? Does it alter any course of events for good? Does it motivate, encourage, inspire, warn, bless, instruct? Am I truly here to intervene? Perhaps! Oh, perhaps!

By the time they get to me–and I to them–the weight of our whole lives presents itself, and we interact. Something changes, and I pray this intervening presence has brought beauty, meaning, joy, hope, and truth. When I see myself as a potential intervening presence (because God orchestrates all things, including students and meeting neighbors on the path), I take more seriously my attention to others, my words, and my ability to encourage or warn.

Perhaps you and I are intervening presences today. Oh, perhaps!

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