We've lived in a boarding school for seven years now, and six of those have been in a dorm with thirty high school boys. In general, it's been great (I have blocked out last year, when William left us so sleep-deprived that we couldn't see straight and I didn't even learn the boys' names). And there have been moments of participating in something greater than ourselves.
There was the time when a student from Mexico, another from Newark, and another from New Canaan, CT, sat in our living room as we watched the Presidential election results. Three kids who might never have met and would probably never have been friends, from disparate backgrounds, speaking different native languages, living together and learning together. Or the time when Peter found a student curled up in a chair at the end of the year. "I don't want to go home," he said. "It's safe here." Or the time when the boys raised thousands of dollars in honor of Penny and contributed it to Down syndrome research.
Peter is really good at his job. The assistant Housemaster and I were talking last night about the fact that neither of us have the same instincts. We don't know what to do when we find out at midnight that two boys have had a fistfight, or that someone has been smoking cigars in the attic, or that someone has broken into someone else's computer to send malicious emails. It brings me joy to watch Peter care for these boys with love that is full of grace and truth.
And yet, we wonder sometimes about living here. Jesus says that in God's kingdom, the "last will be first" (Matthew 20:16), and sometimes we wonder if we are helping the "first" stay "first." Are we just contributing to a cycle of pressure and achievement and false notions of what makes human beings valuable and successful? Many of the students here will tell us, "I'm here to get into a good college so I can get a good job and make a lot of money." Are we helping them grow into men of character who will care for others? Or are we helping them achieve a dream of a big house and fancy cars and expensive suits?
I want to participate in God's kingdom. I want to be a part of the work God is doing to restore and bind up and heal. Is there a way to participate in that work here? Is there any way in which the boys in this house, the students at this school, are the "least of these"?