During the summer of 1979, a torrential downpour fell on my hometown. In what seemed like no time, flood waters engorged most of the surrounding streets. Instead of staying in the safe, relatively high place I was, I unwisely decided to drive home. Being an inexperienced 19-year-old driver, I entered floodwaters in a fruitless attempt to find a high road that would give me a safe path back to the only home I had ever known.
After venturing down the flooded street for about a block, I realized the futility of going anywhere, and I knew I had to get back to the safety of the parking lot I had foolishly left. By this time, the rain seemed to be falling from barrels and not buckets. This deluge, combined with the dark skies and ever-worsening flooding, robbed me of the ability to see the intersections ahead.
Spotting a street light down at what I supposed to be the end of a block, I turned right, only to find my progress inexplicably stopped. In desperation, I pressed down harder on the gas. The car moved a little but felt like it was up against an obstacle in the road. Disoriented and confused, I responded by pressing down harder on the accelerator. My car answered by lurching forward and then came to a complete stop.
I soon realized my wheels were turning, but I was going nowhere. Thoroughly perplexed and in a state of increasing agitation, I opened the driver’s door and immediately realized my predicament. I had not turned onto a street but a broad, flooded drainage ditch. My car had jumped the curb and come to rest on a wide concrete pipe that connected the two sides of the drainage channel.
Abandoning the car, I somehow pulled myself back up onto the street and began wading through waist-deep waters. Intense thunder and lightning and the realization that the pipe my car perched upon had likely saved me from drowning overcame me. I am not too proud to admit that at that moment, I was broken.
Fatigue and fear overcame me and my eyes filled with tears indistinguishable from the soaking rain. I knew I had a long, long walk through the surging waters, but seeing no other option, I put one foot in front of another. Very slowly but deliberately, I made my way to the home of my fiancee and her parents.
I could have just as easily reached my family home, but in my broken state, I wanted the emotional support I knew I could only get from my girl, Becky. Forty-two years later, Becky is still the rock that gets me through the toughest of times, this pandemic being only the most recent ordeal. Better than anyone else, she knows me and the challenges of the work.
This year has been an arduous journey punctuated by fears, tears, and exhaustion. So many teachers contacted me this year and told me they didn’t know how they would make it through the school year with the pandemic pressing in on us like rising water. Ultimately, teachers put one foot in front of another and kept moving ahead.
Today we can say that we finished the ominous course that seemed so daunting back in August. We had our missteps, but when we fell, we picked ourselves up and kept moving ahead. In doing so, we’ve become more resilient and prepared to face the next challenge.
The late Robert Schuller put it this way:
Tough times never last, but tough people do.
In addition to the encouragement we got at home and from our beloved family on campus, teachers created an emotional support community online. These are people who understand the challenges and concerns of the job and have a heart for others.
It’s now summer and time for us all to recharge our batteries before we come back and face new and different challenges in the fall.