The gym was shut down for the blood drive. I saw the stations set up at the start of the day.
I really should give blood today was my thought. After I’m caught up on all my work that is.
It is the end of the grading period. I look back to discover that students are missing assignments here, there, everywhere. I look for these students; they don’t want to be found.
I teach my seniors. It is the day before spring break. Their indolence and disrespect brings my frustrations to a boil. I sit down and get quiet, waiting for the class to realize I need their attention. This is usually a good technique, one I learned after failed screaming attempts. But they don’t quiet down. Most of them give no indication that I am there. With the bird-chirping of early spring bouncing of the concrete classroom walls, I can’t blame them. I don’t want want to be there either.
I have been in this situation before. I come to question why I teach. I have many skills and talents. Why am I wasting my talents on deaf ears? Without fail, in these existential droughts, a subtle happening will remind me I’m right where I need to be. A simple thing like a student holding the door, or one who wants to talk about the chapter he read last night.
Something inevitably seizes me from the disastrous mundane and places me back in the miraculous—in the bliss of responsibility, grit, and contentment.
But the day was proving to be an exception, no redemption in sight.
My free period comes. I have stacks of assignments to sort, and grades to enter before tomorrow’s deadline. I really should give blood today. No matter, I’ll be done soon. I realize in all my grading catch-up, I haven’t planned for the next period. I send some copies of the Langston Hughes’ poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” to the copy center. I pass through the gym to pick them up.
The Red Cross’ blue blood-drawing lawn chairs are open. Something stopped me. My will was seized by the necessity to sit down. It is when I act in spite of myself that I know prayer is working in my life. I am given an answer beyond my scope of understanding and reason.
A nurse comes over to ask me questions.
“Are you feeling well and healthy today?”
“Yes.” My answer is so automatic, it surprises me.
“In the past 12 months have you been under a doctor’s care or had a major illness or surgery?”
“In the past 12 months have you been in jail or prison?”
“Had sexual contact with a prostitute or anyone else who takes money or drugs or other payment for sex?”
“Had any problem with your liver or kidneys?”
There is great satisfaction in having nothing to hide, in saying ‘no’ so intuitively. I am restored in purpose and action. I am in the right place.
Giving blood is a rush. I’m light-headed.
I leave the chair.
“Please sit down, sir.”
“I’ve got to go. I’ve got to teach.”
“You may feel a little light-headed. At least take some snacks and juice with you.”
Light-headed huh? I pocket refreshments and walk out, wondering what the buzz of teaching after losing a pint of blood will feel like. While clean over eight years, if I can synthesize that old rush, I will.
Am I an alcoholic and an addict? Yes.
Am I clean and sober today? Yes.