The tragedy at Sandy Hook, and the tornado which tore through two elementary schools in Moore, OK, brought again to the forefront the actions of teachers who, with no thought for their own safety, shielded their students from danger. We’ve heard the stories repeated of the teacher who hid out in the bathroom of her classroom, dragging a bookshelf over to cover the door then covering her students’bodies with her own as a gunman stalked the school hallways. I heard this morning teachers telling of how they had their students crouch in the normal position and cover their heads with their backpacks or books to serve as more protection. Other teachers had shielded their students beneath their own bodies as the walls of the elementary school fell in the maelstrom around them.

It made me think.

I’ve always believed teaching isn’t a job–it is a calling. Parents often say “Boy I’m glad I’m not a teacher! I couldn’t handle those kids all day!”, and you can usually see in their eyes that behind their laughter there’s a piercing certainty they aren’t kidding. It takes a special someone to take on the responsibility of fully educating a group of 20+ children, being their mentor for 180 days while attempting to coerce out of them the very best they have. These aren’t just educators–they are nurses, counselors, friends, leaders, disciplinarians and advocates. They’ll laugh at the jokes about “The best part of teaching is summer break” spoken around them, knowing that no teacher is ever, truly “off” work. It’s often a thankless job, the only reward of merit that “Aha!” moment when a student grasps something which had been just out of reach for a long time.

Yet…people flock to the profession. Women, especially. And when crises arise, they willingly put themselves in harm’s way to protect the ones in their care. I’ve struggled with that issue. I have three children of my own. Should I risk my life (WOULD I risk my life) to save someone else’s child and risk leaving mine without a Mother? Would I have the chutzpah to act in the face of danger, or would I cower in fear? When push comes to shove…what would I do?

Today as I walked into school it was with a new set of eyes. Monday morning a bustling elementary school stood where now there is only rubble in Moore, OK. Today I walked into a bustling elementary school standing where it was when I last saw it. I tried to imagine the bricks caving in on us as winds turned chairs, desks, pencils into projectiles. I looked into 19 little faces full of promise and hope and futures unlived, and wondered if the calling I feel would be strong enough to lead me to sacrificing my own life for theirs. It became one of those situations you never want to face–like having to choose which of your children to save from drowning if you could only save one. That prospect has always horrified me. HOW do you choose? Can you choose?

As I wrangled with it all, I looked into little blue eyes and brown eyes and green eyes and felt that old familiar tug on my heart and knew. I just knew.

Perhaps that is part of the calling. God calls you to a task, and equips you to meet that task. Just as some folks would rather go to war than face a classroom full of students every day, I’d rather spend time making a difference in their tiny lives than any other job I know. And I have no doubt that if the moment of decision were to come, I’d protect them with all I had.

It’s a calling…but it’s also a sacred trust…and those tiny lives yet to be lived and hearts to be molded and shaped are not to be trifled with. I’m blessed to even have the chance to touch them.