With November in full swing, I am thinking about Thanksgiving, and thus all of the things I have to be grateful for. Prior to coming to Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, my former principal, on occasion, read a prayer called, “Gathering Up Crumbs,” by Gunilla Norris (reprinted below) for our school’s staff. This reflection would often remind me to pause amidst the frenetic pace of teaching full time at a high school with a jam-packed calendar, while also trying to direct campus ministry and finish my second year of graduate school. These words reminded me that amidst the frustration of disciplining a student for the umpteenth time, making sure that my ducks were in a row for a given retreat, or trying to get all of my lesson plans done, there were precious crumbs to be grateful for—times when students would finally grasp a concept in class, when one of my seniors got into their top choice college, or when upon returning from Kairos, a student would hug me and say, “This retreat has changed the way I see God. Thank you.”
In coming to Flintridge Sacred Heart, I knew I would be in for a challenge—a joyful, exciting challenge, but a challenge nonetheless. I knew I would be up late, I knew I would worry for our girls’ safety, and I knew that I’d by trying new things. During our first residential life prayer service where each of our girls shared their hopes and dreams for the year, I shared “Gathering Up Crumbs.” I challenged each of the girls to think about their “crumbs” every week, given the stress of papers, projects and tests, and for the freshmen, amidst the stress of trying to adjust to high school. I encouraged them to hold on to their crumbs—to cherish them in times of pressure—when things seem too hard to handle.
In asking the girls to do this, I also challenged myself, and in the past two months, I have found that the crumbs I have gathered on this Hill mean the most to me. On days when I find myself unclogging a toilet at 10 p.m. for a student, or having a difficult conversation about safety or curfew, or dealing with a roommate conflict, I am brought back to my crumbs—crumbs that I am given every day. I am overjoyed by how many crumbs exist in this place—I love that faculty regularly come and have dinner with us—that Candy Navarro and Allison Clay come spend time with the girls on a weekly basis, and that Stefani Collier does a French café in the halls every Wednesday. That regularly, Jim Lao tutors our girls in math and takes them to get treats in town from time to time. The fact that, without fail, Lily Lin brings the entire Residence Life faculty Boba every time she returns from a weekend at home, is such a treat. When Ivian Zhang comes into the office on Friday nights to eat dinner with me, and tells me that I work too hard, I smile and I am reminded to put my email away—as emails can wait, and giggles at the dinner table cannot. Or, when Teresa Wang consistently comes into the office to ask if she can help with things—sorting mail, updating our bulletin boards, anything we need—that makes my day. Anytime I can have a heart-to-heart with one of our girls is a small morsel—a tiny reminder—of why I do what I do, and why I do it with a grateful heart. Seeing our young women happy, healthy, and thriving makes up a thousand little crumbs for me. I am reminded daily that the sound of laughter in the hallways, smiles on faces, and excitement over outings, free pool time, and movie nights, are better than any grand gesture or big demonstration of appreciation; they are little crumbs—food for the soul—and I cherish them.
Gathering Up Crumbs
Be careful with the crumbs,
Do not overlook them.
Be careful with the crumbs, the little chances to love, the tiny gestures, the morsels that feed, the minims.
Take care of the crumbs, a look, a laugh, a smile. A teardrop, an open hand. Take care of the crumbs, they are food also.
Do not let them fall. Gather them, cherish them. They are food also.