The sun enters my classroom after my students leave, and I’m thankful once again for how light can melt the side of my cheek.
Valerie parks her heavy custodial cart just outside my room. Through the window in the door, I see her unroll and tear off two trash bags. She reaches for the doorknob.
We haven’t chatted in a while. Years ago, I spent a lot of time inside my classroom, well into the midnight hours. Those were the days when I also juggled a master’s degree and two children under the age of two. Often, after the kids went to bed, I went back to school.
Those were tough days for our family.
Thankfully, Valerie knows how to speak from the heart, even when it involves small-talk. Because she knows her Savior all day long, Valerie’s words hold something richer for her listeners. Her words have brought me deep encouragement over the years.
When she walks through the door today, I swivel in my chair until the sun hits me on the back of my head. “Hey, how are you?” she asks. She shakes open one of those bags, pulls it apart, and all I know is how good it feels to sense more of Christ in my classroom again.
But I stay closer to the surface. “What are you looking forward to this weekend?”
She needs no time to reply. She informs me that her little buddy will come home from the hospital tomorrow. He attends her Sunday school class, at least whenever he’s not in the hospital.
Preston learned to worship his Savior from a hospital bed. Church, whenever he could make it, was a special treat.
I know Valerie’s heart is drenched with love for this boy. I see it in the movement of her eyes.
Preston actually made it to church this past Christmas, she tells me. “Do you know what the first thing he said to me was when he came into my room? He said, ‘Is today Jesus’ birthday?'”
“I tell him, ‘Yes, Preston. It is.’ And then he puts his hands together.” She stops and shows me how. “He closes his eyes and starts praying. Just right there and then, while all the other kids are off doing –“
Doing their thing.
She plans to make him a special sign for Sunday. “He’ll love it.” Her nose bunches up as she squeaks out those words. She wants to do the whole thing up for him just right. She shares a few of her ideas while fiddling with the trash bag.
Something tells me Valerie is well-trained in having conversations while working with her hands. Some might call it multi-tasking.
However, the sun on her face today tells me her power has everything to do with ceaseless praying.
“Well, thanks for listening to me. And my stories.” She looks back over her shoulder. “I hope I didn’t take up too much of your time. You probably weren’t expecting all that.”
Hours later, after making her rounds, she’ll be back to sweep my room. The sun will be long gone by then, so she’ll need to flip on all three light switches. But her conversations will continue, just as if she were standing in the sun.
Tonight, even if her broom happens to miss some hidden corner, I won’t care. Because I know she’s got everything covered.
And whenever she comes to mind, I’ll try to do a little sweeping for her, too.