“Want to help me?” H asks his grandma.
She has just announced to the house that it’s time to get rid of the cottonwood seeds that have been drifting about on the dining room table for the past week. The white, fluffy puffs had been dancing through the sky gently, like angels, for days, dusting the lawn, catching in our sunflowers starts, stowing away beneath the thick growth of hostas and irises and cleaver. H has clambered onto the chair at the head of the table in order to save his cottonwood seeds from certain composting.
“No,” his grandma says.
“I’m busy eating.”
Her tone is fairly short, almost brusque.
“I know you’ll help later. A different time,” he says evenly, his voice filled with total and complete confidence that it will be so. I hear not even a hint of irritation, frustration, or anger. He sounds as if he were simply making a plain-as-day statement of fact.
Here he is again: My teacher. The words he’s using are mine, yes, but the spirit is all him and one I’m not sure I’ve been entirely successful at invoking every time I’ve come to those same words. So many of my invitations to help clean up, to put away, to clear the space for our next activity, to tidy up out of respect for our space and our belongings and the people living here – so many of these invitations have been declined, surely as many if not more than have been accepted. And I know, more often than I would like to admit, that the words have been buoyed up by a roiling undercurrent of frustration, one that is liable to break the surface and spill into the space between us. The words, when I attempt to use them as space holders, called forth as part of an effort not to say something damaging that I will later regret, fall short of what they could be, of what H has shown me they can be.
Here I am again: H’s student. I’m taking notes on how to pour peace, love, and trust into the words I place between us.
“I know you’ll help later. A different time.” Said without resentment, because I truly mean it, because I truly trust in him, in me, and in us. That’s the way I intend to say it next time and the time after that and until those words are no longer necessary. I’ll let them be words of peace.