Denver teachers are striking. Parents are scrambling to make plans as their days are disrupted. We are all a little unsure of how this week will unfold. Emotions are high. With a high schooler, middle schooler, and two elementary students in Denver Public Schools, this issue obviously feels relevant and impacts our family in a million little ways. For those of us whose lives circle around Denver schools, how are we to respond to one another?
It’s not escaping me that I have a book releasing in a few months about loving our neighbors, that Christian call to care for those right in front of us, and many of my “neighbors” could use some real love this week. From the principles of my book, here are a few things I believe will help us move toward caring for each other in
Hold a posture of humility. We don’t know everything about everything, (though we like to pretend we do.) Being humble is remembering our place in the world and respecting others’ equal place. I remind myself, “God is God and I am not.” When emotions are high and stress is real, our responses are always more kind and respectful when we remember our “neighbors”, those people right in front of us, are people who are made in God’s image.
Ask questions to learn. We can learn about the issues, about others’ experiences, about ideas and solutions. But we must want to know and we must ask the questions to find out. This can be person to person. It can also be finding reliable information to stay up on what the strike is about. (Shout out to The Denver Post for keeping me informed.) It is asking with hearts ready to receive and pre-conceived notions pushed aside.
Be quiet to listen. Our questions are only as effective as our ability to listen. To what teachers are asking for, and how we can support them, to what a fellow parent might need for support while they are unsure about their week, we need to hear feelings and ideas and opinions if we are to do well by each other. That means not interrupting, or talking over, or planning our response when someone is talking, but listening.
Stand in the awkward. I’ve never been to a picket line before, but I will be at one tomorrow. It sounds like it will have things this introvert most dislikes: crowds and noise. But you know what it will also have? Teachers who have cared for my children. I’m willing to try something new even though I find it uncomfortable to support those around me. Hard conversations can be uncomfortable. When we stay in them, we tell the other person (or side) we care more about them then our own comfort.
Accept what is. There are some things we can’t change. The cost of housing in Denver is exceptionally high, like off the charts high. Our child’s classmates’ parents must be at work tomorrow or they will lose their jobs. Some teachers can’t afford to strike. Though this strike is about change, (how teachers are compensated by the district), some things about our neighbors’ circumstances are out of our control. We need to love within those parameters.
Lighten up. This is stressful. It is serious. Teachers’ livelihoods and children’s quality of care are at stake. We also can lighten the mood a bit. The Denver teachers were singing strike songs to the tune of Baby Shark and All About That Base during negotiations last night. Why? We all need a little levity to get us through. Take donuts to the picket line, make a funny sign, bring coffee to school staff who are holding down the fort while schools are still open and offering modified services. It’s okay to offer a smile and a joke. Everyone will appreciate it.
Give freely. This is where I know we as Denverites can shine. Be generous with your time, your care, your resources. Offer to watch someone’s child. Give your neighborhood principal your undivided attention. Gift a striking teacher a gift card for dinner. And when the strike is over continue to give freely. Help teachers and kids by being present, available, and open to helping out.
I wrote a book on these practices because I think they can be applied in all circumstances. I don’t typically write about local issues because most of my readers live outside my immediate community. But I couldn’t escape how this news story is impacting my actual neighbors. This week my community’s circumstances are a teacher walk out. Next week it may be a snowstorm or a political scandal or a market crash. Denver, you are my actual city, and we are poised to love each other well. I believe in us.
To pre-order my upcoming book Loving My Actual Neighbor: 7 Practices to Treasure the People Right in Front of You click here. I appreciate it.