You remember those. In fact, I bet reading those words jacked your heart rate pretty good, didn’t it? Teachers loved assigning oral reports and we students loved hating them. Hating the reports that is; hopefully not the teachers. Hating people isn’t very nice.
I haven’t given an oral report in a really long time and I can’t say I miss them, but they never really terrified me. It wasn’t that I couldn’t wait to be the center of attention and I wasn’t an incessant talker who loved hearing my own voice. I guess I just viewed oral reports the same as any other necessary, less than pleasant task or chore – like dusting or getting your teeth scraped by an overly vigorous dental hygienist. These moments aren’t fun, but they’re over in a matter of minutes and then life goes on. I may have thought oral reports were a waste of time years ago, but even as an adult I still have to talk to people and in front of people, which means oral reports were actually genius life skills training. Teachers are clever.
Throughout the month of October, my son had to read a biography, write it in timeline and outline form, and present it as an oral report. He’s into baseball these days, so he chose Jackie Robinson. He turned in the written report last week and I checked it off my ‘mom stuff to help with’ list, but I forgot about the presentation part. Turns out, the oral presentations were yesterday. Hope he was ready. Mom fail.
I would have never remembered about the oral reports had it not been for an email from my son’s teacher. My son behaves at school (and usually at home, but it’s hit or miss at home, because he’s 10 and he has 3 sisters), so an email from the teacher doesn’t evoke fear. Honestly, I wasn’t really prepared for the feelings that short email would evoke:
“I would like to recognize your son at next week’s assembly for helping a struggling classmate present his biography book report. He stood next to his classmate and encouraged him along and helped him keep track of where he was in his presentation.”
Yeah, I’m a proud momma.
I don’t have any idea how my son did on his report. Whatever grade he earned for reciting Jackie Robinson facts to his class may count for this grading period, but knowing how to encourage others and being willing to stand next to someone in the tough times counts forever. #Lifeskills.
‘Doing life together’ is one of those churchy phrases that’s getting a lot of traction these days. Maybe you’ve heard it. It kind of sounds like Kumbaya, hippie stuff. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it sounds like a quaint thing to do, but it’s hard to describe what ‘doing life together’ really looks like. It’s vague, and people prefer specifics. Plus, it’s much easier to continue doing the ‘life the best we can manage, everyone for themselves’ thing.
Jesus conversed with rejects. He fed hungry people. When His friends mourned their brother’s death, Jesus wept with them. Jesus heard spoken requests, He recognized silent needs, and He went beyond just sympathizing with troubled souls. He lovingly reacted by giving of Himself – moment by moment, person by person, in the present. That’s what ‘doing life together’ looks like.
Even with all the power in the world, Jesus didn’t solve every problem. As the author of wisdom, He didn’t answer every question. As the owner and creator of all things, Jesus didn’t provide for every material need of every person He encountered. A lot of times Jesus helped people simply by being there beside them, and I’m glad for His example because I can’t do all, fix all, or be all, either. But I can encourage people by being there for them, and in our connected-but-lonely culture, sometimes what people need most is someone standing (or sitting) beside them.
There’s something very healing about knowing we’re not alone. Thanks to my son, his classmate knows this. And thanks to my son’s teacher, I’m reminded of this truth:
Life is better when we live it together.