36 Grade 11 and 12 students.
Destination: Queenstown, New Zealand.
My third ski trip with the school I currently teach at. It’s tough being a teacher sometimes.
You may think with disbelief. You may think with awe and wonder. You may think with dread. I will even let you look on with jealousy.
We came home relatively unscathed. Except for 2 students - broken wrist and dislocated shoulder. The bruises just starting to come out for many more.
It is a trip of a lifetime for many of our students who have taken the financial hit (maybe along with mum or dad) to come on our biennial ski trip. It is also for many the start of an itch that just has to be scratched for many years later. The thrill of skiing, snowboarding or travel.
I feel honoured and privileged as a teacher to have played a part in that.
This last trip gave me much more though.
People’s stories inspire me.
They challenge me.
They bring me to humility so often.
It helps me to “keep it real.”
The day of the trip I had a tough text to send at the airport.
“Rusty here Camo. So tragic and devastating. I’m heading to NZ on a school trip. Will be thinking and praying for ya and all your family.”
“Thanks Rusty. I appreciate your energy.”
A mate I have played footy with the last 7 years (he coached me for 2 of those years), lost his 18 year old son in a car accident.
I will mourn with him and my footy mates this Friday.
The female teacher on the ski trip has gone from a colleague to a friend in just 7 days.
She lost her husband to cancer 5 months ago.
5 years Sean battled.
5 years Sonya battled.
For 5 years they truly lived.
I have never really talked to Sonya before. I have on the odd occasion sat in staff meetings next to her and looked for ways to make her laugh. Just trying to get her into trouble actually. Succeeded a few times, but that was about it.
She spoke at her husband’s memorial and I took notes!
It brought me to a realisation that I had missed an opportunity to know someone who could have taught me so much. It brought out the point that someone wanted to tell their story, if only I had been bold enough just to ask. The fact that Sean’s life was so closely aligned with the life God wanted him to lead, I missed a chance not to find out how he was dealing with the suffering, but how God wanted him to teach us something. Not “is there anything I can do for you?”, but “is there anything you can teach me through this?”
As the other two male staff and I shared of our love for our families and kids, our love for the students in our care who were amazing ambassadors for their own families and school, Sonya shared as well.
Sean is still so much alive in her. He gave her so much. My only question to her in the last 5 months was, “Are you still coming on the ski trip?” Her resounding “Yes” beamed out before I had even finished the question.
She shared with me what she has learnt through this journey.
I started to get an idea about who Sean was and what he COULD have taught me.
The places they went.
What he taught Sonya.
What Sonya taught him.
I talked about being a man and my struggles as a husband and dad.
SHE encouraged ME!!!
I thought I could play the comforter and tell her how sorry I was for her struggle and her pain. To finally use all those clichés we know we need to say, but we want to really choose the right time to mean them. I knew this was going to be my time to use them, but I wanted to listen and learn as well.
I’ve come back full of love and admiration for my kids and wife.
I couldn’t wait to get back home and just hug them again. My sons weren’t so forthcoming, but you get what you can!
Thanks Joe for not letting go and squeezing that bit harder. He may be 11, but he’s not too old yet to not give his Dad a long hug.
Sonya’s tears she shed in front of me, on the bus from The Remarkables, as I slumped down in my chair so no students saw the tears in my own, were no match for the words she said next,
“Russ, I just want to go home to someone who cares for me.”
And that is all I can do.
Be that someone
Be that someone people can come to for care and love - no strings attached. No need to let others know whether they are “in” or “out”. Or who is “in” and who is “out”. I don’t think that is a Christian’s job to decide. We are being Jesus to others when we do that. We are doing what Jesus would have done. We can all do that.
Jesus wants me to be someone who cares for others. He told us to “Love God; Love Others.”
I have people to go home to who care for me.
Camo’s son knew his dad cared for him. Not so long-ago Bailey was the cheeky red head round the footy blokes bringing us water or having a kick at training with us.
We knew his Dad loved him.
Camo needs his mates around him now to care for him.
I know this is why God wants me here.
Russell Modlin teaches English and Physical Education at a Christian School on the Sunshine Coast. He is married to Belinda and they have three children.
Russell Modlin’s archive of previous article can be found at www.pressserviceinternational.org/russell-modlin.html
Russell Modlin is in his 30th year as a Secondary English and Physical Education Teacher. He has taught in Mackay, Brisbane, Alice Springs and currently on the Sunshine Coast. He is married to Belinda (26 years) and they have three sons- 2 have finished High School, 1 to go!
Russell Modlin’s archive of previous article can be found atwww.pressserviceinternational.org/russell-modlin.html