Guide My Feet

When the meeting was finally over and the school board officials had left, our thoughtful principal produced pizza and chicken wings, and we settled into our chairs with a collective, grateful sigh. Our gratitude had little to do with the meeting itself, though we appreciated the opportunity to meet with high-level officials. Mostly, we were glad that it was over.

As my pizza sat on my plate, I asked a question I couldn't ignore. “Why are we even doing this?”

***

I had come to this particular meeting, in large part, because of my experience as part of the Community Institute for Education in March and April. At the final session, our facilitator had challenged us to pursue justice in an educational issue we cared about. I chose class size at my daughter's school because it was a problem I cared deeply about. Also, I had already connected with the parent advocacy group, though my commitment had been minimal since the previous year.

‘Minimal’ means that I had just about given up.

It wasn't that I had disappeared from the school. I still tutored kids, chaperoned field trips, and organized our uniform swap. I simply prioritized my limited volunteer hours with activities that made a difference, and school board meetings and speeches didn't seem to fit in this category. Advocacy felt like an exercise in frustration, and I only had so much time and energy to give.

Still, I recognized that tutoring one kid in a class of thirty was a band-aid solution, and after going through the Institute it bothered me more and more. In April I sent an e-mail to the parent advocacy group: “I'd like to help again. What are you all working on?” Large class sizes were an issue. I began attending meetings again, gave another speech at a school board hearing, and wrote an editorial for the local paper.

And that was how I came to be at the May meeting followed by pizza and wings, wondering why we were even there.

No one had much of an answer to my question that afternoon. As I drove to work the next day, I was still turning it over in my mind. My brain circled around frustration and regrets. “See,” I wanted to tell our Institute facilitator, “there's no point to working at this level. I should've stuck with tutoring. Why am I wasting my time?”

Soon my thoughts became prayers. “God, why? Why is this so hard? Why does trying to do the right thing seem so pointless? Why are these systems like this? Have we just made things worse?” Even as I asked, I felt tension drain out of my body. It had been a while since I prayed about my daughter's school in any kind of serious way.

Returning to the frustration of advocacy drove me to my knees.

While I knew, at least theoretically, that I wasn't able to tutor a child or organize a uniform swap in my own power, to a certain extent I was able to fake it. I could get to work under a veneer of quick prayer, and make things happen. But this complex advocacy work was beyond my best efforts. It even stretched our best collaborative efforts. Prayer was no longer optional.

Later that day, I played a familiar CD,

Guide my fee-eet

while I run this race.

Guide my fee-eet

while I run this race.

Guide my fee-eet

while I run this race.

For I don't want to run this race in vain.

I needed this guidance. We needed this guidance. Why? Because the God of justice was the only one who saw it all—the unnecessary complications, the strain on overwhelmed teachers, and the frustrations of students lost in a crowd. And God also saw the hearts of the district officials and understood the pressures they faced. Only God could untangle the funding, the trade-offs, and all the rhetoric, including my own.

Guide my feet, I prayed, knowing that God would most likely call me--in addition to more tutoring and more field trips--to more meetings, more editorials, and more school board hearings. Guide our feet, I prayed, knowing that I wouldn’t be doing these things alone. Guide our feet while we run this race, I prayed, and a new kind of hope began to grow inside me—not a hope that things would be easy, or that the pieces would just fall into place, but a sure hope that we would not run this race in vain. 

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