My daughter works each week in a nursing home. She helps me at home with dusting, folding laundry, and making beds. She feeds her cat and cares for the neighbor’s dog. She takes ballet, enjoys art, plays sports, listens to music, goes to the library, and takes walks with her brother. She cheers all of us.
But this is not the plan she had for her life. Autism, schizophrenia, and a series of medical conditions thwarted that plan. Virtue. Duty. Wisdom. Classical educators often speak of these things. Sometimes we witness them.
One afternoon before her regular blood work, Michelle settled into a good book in the back seat of our car. She seemed unconcerned about the painful needles invariably wielded by rookie phlebotomists. All of this awaited her but she pressed on, as she does every day.
As I watched her through the rearview mirror, I decided to tell her what I had been thinking. “Michelle,” I said, “I want you to know how much I admire your courage.” Surprised and somewhat embarrassed, she covered her face with her hands. Then she looked up and paused. She answered quietly, “C’est sa raison d’être.”
“What does that mean?” I asked.
“That is her reason to be,” she explained. “I learned it in First Start French.”
On another day, she read a poem, “The Grasshopper,” by the Greek of Anacreon from Poetry for the Grammar Stage. Michelle answered these questions independently in her Student Book: “Would you prefer a life like the grasshopper’s? Why or why not?”
She wrote her answer this way: “I would if it’d get me away from certain things. But we are what we are, and must learn to accept and bear them. ‘Tis the way of the cross. To live and learn, to serve where you are able.”
I sat down to read this again more slowly. The words, simply written, echoed timeless truths.
This is courage in a man
To bear unflinchingly what heaven sends. —Euripedes
Though He slay me,
yet will I trust Him. —Job 13:15
We never know which lessons will impact our children as we teach. We do not know when these lessons will emerge in our children’s lives, reflections, or conversations. We do not know whether they will emerge at all. We just keep teaching, caring, and serving. For each of us, that is our reason to be.