Updated: Jan 7, 2020
By Kerry Campbell
God's Brave Women - Kerry's Story
A classroom teacher pulled me aside as I got ready to start my preschool music classes for the day. There was going to be an active shooter drill at some point that afternoon, and she wanted me to be ready. The teacher and I exchanged a long look. We had done this once before, and I remembered how much it took out of her, how surreal it was to watch her bar her door and gather the class of three and four-year olds, many with special needs, into a corner and play a series of finger games to help them remain quiet. Today’s drill would be different. From an announcement over the loudspeaker about the supposed location of the shooter, each preschool teacher would need to quickly decide whether to stay and hide or whether they should run outside through the nearest exit. This particular preschool program is housed in a large middle school, and the six classrooms are pretty spread out, so it was likely that some classes would run, and some would hide. They wouldn’t know what to do until the announcement, and the lead teachers had just a second to decide their course.
"From an announcement over the loudspeaker about the supposed location of the shooter, each preschool teacher would need to quickly decide whether to stay and hide or whether they should run outside through the nearest exit... Can you imagine the weight of that decision? The startling, sad, and scary thought that this could one day be their reality? Staying or running as a matter of life and death?"
Can you imagine the weight of that decision? The startling, sad, and scary thought that this could one day be their reality? Staying or running as a matter of life and death? You would imagine that the teachers would wear it heavy on their shoulders, their terror and emotion plain on their faces, but that’s not what happened.
As I moved through the classes that day, I saw teachers prepping children who, because of their age, had no real idea what they were being prepped for. They played a series of games, repeated some call and response, practiced some classroom rules. They talked about the value of running fast, of listening to a teacher’s voice, of turning off talking voices, of following directions. As I settled into one class to start my lesson, I heard a little boy whisper to himself, “run fast, run fast, run fast”. And though the thought that this precious boy might have to do just that to save his life one day was at the forefront of my mind and emotions, I followed the lead of the teachers around me, took a breath, smiled, and started singing.
As the day went on, the teachers had a better idea of the general timing of the drill, and we were fairly certain it would happen in the midst of my time with Miss Lisa and her class. I settled into my seat and started the lesson, scanning the faces of a dozen children and seeing them with an entirely new lens. There was a boy who used a hand-held screen to communicate, another who had a really hard time controlling his body. I noticed a little girl with her name on a gold necklace: Anna. I thought about their parents as we made music from unlikely objects: building blocks, Tupperware, newspaper. We were tapping, flapping, and crinkling the newspaper and rolling it to make rudimentary ‘horns’ when the loudspeaker crackled on. There was a code I didn’t recognize, and in a split-second Miss Lisa and her classroom aide had the kids up and in a line. We ran out the classroom door, down the hall, out the door, and up a grassy hill, Miss Lisa at the head, the aide at the middle, and me at the end of the line. One child was slower than the rest, and the special education director came out of nowhere, scooped him up, and carried him up that hill. We stopped there as Miss Lisa counted all the kids.
And though it was horrifying in every way you might expect, somehow each adult kept our smiles and our optimism. We told the kids how well they did, how fast they ran, what great listeners they were! And to most of the kids, it felt like a game. Others looked a little confused. All of them still had their newspaper in their hands.
After the kids waved to the police officer who circled around the building, and all of the data for the drill had been recorded, we made our way back to school, each kid with a buddy, holding each other’s hand. All except Anna. She was nervous, you could see, and I bent down and told her how much I liked her necklace. “My Mom gave it to me,” she said. “And my dress, too.” The dress was greenish blue and covered in a pattern of line-drawn foxes. Anna reached up and held my hand as we walked back into the building together, buddies.
We finished our lesson that day with some freeze dancing, and though this class that depends so heavily on structure had been pretty seriously disrupted, the kids danced and laughed as though none of it had ever happened. The teachers carried on as usual, and so did I.
As I said goodbye to the kids that day, I prayed silently for each one and for their teachers, too. Anna and I locked eyes and grinned before I slowly turned and walked out the door. I passed a teacher in the hallway and we let our guard down, slowly shook our heads, and admitted how crazy it all was, how scary the world has become, and then she went back into her classroom, business as usual. I was awed, as I have been many times, by the sacred heroism of teachers.
"I was awed, as I have been many times, by the sacred heroism of teachers. In these trying times, God helps them, and us, rise above our nature. He makes us brave when we’re so very afraid. He makes us smile when we’d much rather crumble. He enables regular, ordinary people to become leaders who would lay down their lives for their flocks."
In these trying times, God helps them, and us, rise above our nature. He makes us brave when we’re so very afraid. He makes us smile when we’d much rather crumble. He enables regular, ordinary people to become leaders who would lay down their lives for their flocks. I’ve heard it said that courage is fear that’s said its prayers, and though I don’t know the faith life of every teacher in our building, I do know that something supernatural is at work within them, making them better and stronger and fiercer than the sum of their parts. It’s what allows them to do what they do each day, and for each one of us, it’s the Source of anything true, beautiful, and brave that wells up within us. Thanks be to God, the Holy Spirit is very much at work, equipping us to become more than we ever were. Strong enough to lead, run, carry, smile, and dance, even with newspaper in our hand.
Brave Woman Manifesto
Make sure to check back next week as another courageous Sister shares her story!
And by the way...
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Kerry Campbell is looking for meaning in the details of life in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts. She’s a married mom of two adult children, a new empty nester, longtime music minister and preschool music teacher. Kerry is a Catholic Christian who is passionate about bringing together sisters and brothers of all denominations in the context of our shared hopes and experiences. Also, a big fan of dark chocolate salted caramels, musicals, and the very best dog in the world, Bailey. Find Bailey pics @lifeofbail and find Kerry on Instagram at @kerrycampbellwrites. Join her community at mylittleepiphanies.com.