Driving down the downtown expressway this week, cars passed, rain splashed, and I mindlessly listened to All Things Considered on the radio. That’s when I caught them together: bright sunshine and dark rain clouds. That can happen on an April afternoon and when it does, you have to work fast. I checked my mirrors, scanned the sky and remembered the story.
On an April afternoon some years ago, a substitute custodian came into my classroom after school to clean. I introduced myself and he told me that we’d met before. And then he said there was something he’d always wanted to ask me.
“Are you joyful because you are made that way or are you that way because you choose to be?”
I was taken aback by this philosophical (and personal) question, but he was earnest; he leaned against the broom as he waited for an answer. I looked out the window as I pondered the question and there they were: the bright sun and stormy clouds.
“Wait,” I said as I stood up and rushed over to the windows. “I want to think about your question, but I have to look.” I moved quickly from one wall of windows to the other. I motioned him to follow. “Come look with me. The conditions are perfect for a rainbow!” He stood next to me and looked. And there it was.
“Whoa!” He said. “I get it!”
I don’t know that I ever answered his question, but I hear it every time I catch the bright sun mingling with dark clouds in the late afternoon April sky. Or when a storm threatens the life or happiness of someone I love. Or on a day that feels like a dark cloud looming. I get busy and start looking.
May is just around the corner. April showers bring May flowers and Mothers’ Day; baseball and barbecues; the Strawberry Street Festival and strawberry shortcake; picnics and porch parties. And April showers bring, well, the May state-mandated testing of standards: the Virginia SOL’s.
If our third graders do well, the school does well. And if the school does well, the school system does well. That’s why they call it high stakes testing.
But I’m not worried. And I’ve told the children they should not worry either. We’ve worked hard. The material has been taught and learned. Our review will be a celebration of all that we know. We will connect the dots and finish the seams; dot the i’s and cross the t’s. We will continue to learn new material in math and science and deepen our lives as readers and writers. We’ll be true to ourselves and true to our school.
Radiant light consorts with rain clouds on the horizon. Come look! The conditions are just right. I know there is a beautiful rainbow out there.
And if we don’t look, we’ll miss it.