Question of the day: “What does it means to me to walk the line?”

In the famous movie Walk the line about Johnny Cash, there is an iconic scene where Johnny Cash is drunk on stage with his bandmates before the concert. Peggy Carter sees them drunk and is furious. She argues with Cash and says, “Ya’ll can’t walk no line.” This supposedly gave rise to Cash’s song Walk the Line, which talks about how his love for her causes him to change his behavior. It’s beautiful and heartwarming. I included the song below for all of you who haven’t seen it. But as I am sitting here on this rainy morning after talking to my two students I wrote about yesterday, I can only hear that song in my head, and it’s making me question, “What does it mean to me to walk the line?”

To start, it was late yesterday afternoon when the father of my two students emailed me back after I sent him an message about his children’s lateness and behavior. He wrote back quickly. He was apologetic. He explained about how his son does not want to come to school. He talked about his daughter failing her classes and her constant lateness. He voiced his frustration over his children’s inability to see how important school is, and all I could do was feel for him. Through his words, I felt his feelings of failure as a parent, and the despair and shame that follows. I have felt all of these things too often.

So I prayed this morning for guidance from the Universe. I said the following aloud as I brushed my teeth:

“Dear Universe, please allow me to soften my heart and guide me to the right words and the right actions so I can help them find their way or comfort them.”

To be honest, I said some other stuff too. I was brushing my teeth and I was putting it out there, but it was said with more annoyance than love. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen.

First, they both arrived on time to class. We had a test, so it was relatively quiet. The girl apologized to me before starting the test for her behavior the other day with the phone. After the test, I had a heart-to-heart with the boy and asked him about his experiences with school. He started to cry.

There are times when I lose my way in this job. There are moments I get frustrated and annoyed by my students. Sometimes I get drawn into power struggles because of my ego, but it was in that moment I realized how important it was that I walk the line. The line that separates me from anything other than the Universal source of love. The line that runs between the very human part of me that wants to take things personally and act without intention from a place of ego. As the adult in the room, I have the power to nurture or shame. Ask questions or just merely pass judgment. Criticize as opposed to create space for a person who is in pain.

“You are so patient with them,” my TA tells me after she sees an interaction or I get done working on an activity in small group.

“I don’t know any other way to be,” I answer.

I walk the line.

I walk the line because the cost is too high for everyone in our world if I don’t.