“Am I doing this right?” a mother said, half to herself and half to me, as she walked out of a classroom. Her crying son was situated on a teacher’s lap, his face a confused blend of excitement and longing.
“Am I doing this right?” a teacher asked as I visited her classroom before the students arrived. Having studied this job as a student in graduate school, she was now involved in setting up her own classroom for the first time. Where do the blocks go? How many books should we have out?
“Am I doing this right?” I asked myself Monday morning as school got under way. After months of preparation, the school was ready for our students once again. But who knows what the year will bring?
This question, or a version of it, seems to be on a lot of our minds as the school year and Jewish year begin this month. We plan, we prepare, and we ready ourselves – and then when the moment arrives, we are never quite sure if we have done “it” right.
Indiana Jones, in his quest for the Holy Grail, finds himself in a similar situation. Overlooking a deep chasm, perched on the edge of a cliff, Indy must cross or else risk his father’s death. He has spent his whole life preparing for this; he even literally holds the guidebook in his hand. Yet the way across is not made clear. He does not know if he is doing it right.
Indy slowly puts his foot forward, and suddenly a narrow bridge appears in front of him. His uncertainty is erased as he confidently crosses. As the year begins, we are each doing the same: slowly putting a foot forward. What will appear in front of us this year? What will unfold with each passing day? We live with that uncertainty. As parents and educators, we find ourselves constantly dealing with ambiguities and unknowns.
Rebbe Nachman, a Jewish spiritual leader who lived in the 18th century, taught us that, “The whole world is a narrow bridge; the most important thing is to never be afraid.” How true that rings to our experiences taking care of young children! We know they need us to proceed, despite not being sure ourselves.
We have each made a choice this year: to be here, to be a part of this community. While we may not know as individuals if we are “doing it right,” the warmth and care on the 2nd floor this week has reminded us what we do know: we are in the right place, with the right people. This community is our bridge, rising up to meet our wavering feet as we step into the chasm. Our trust and our faith in each other is what allows us to take this first step, and it is what assures us that we are indeed “doing it right.”