Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Redemption is Messy

"We forward this generation triumphantly"

Bob Marley wrote many of my favorite songs. At the top of the list is Redemption Song. I learned to love it on a hilarious vacation I spent with my family a few summers ago. There was a fellow staying a few houses away from ours who exuberantly embraced all the beach had to offer - paddle boarding, kite flying and wooing women. After each day's endeavor, he sat on the porch and played the bongos while singing. Hence his nickname, Bongo Boy.

Bongo Boy wasn't a particularly skilled kite flier or paddle boarder, nor was he a great musician. In fact, he mumbled his way through Redemption Song without really knowing the words.

Still, his enthusiasm was impressive and his zest for living unparalleled. He fell off the paddle board often and most of the women said no. He didn't even know the words to the song he loved so much, but he sang it anyway.

Even so, I think Bongo Boy moved forward his generation triumphantly.

I have a Bongo Boy in class this year. He is messy. He tries new things with enthusiasm and falls down a lot. It would be easy to be annoyed with a student like this, but I find myself rather charmed by Bongo Boy II.

Today, Bongo Boy II had to take a standardized assessment. We had tried yesterday, but things had gone poorly. Today's attempt began in a rocky and unpromising fashion. An eye injury that happened last night necessitated the creation of a makeshift eye patch. The patch was uncomfortable, so it came off. Somewhere along the way, my coffee was spilled.

When Bongo Boy II was ready to start, he talked his way through the whole assessment. He whispered about the passages, the vocabulary and the questions."Hey, I'm reading a sonnet by Shakespeare. Have you read it?" or "Have you ever heard of a poet called William Wordsworth?"

I was annoyed by the noise, but delighted by his enthusiasm. In the end, Bongo Boy II showed a delightful increase in his score. We were both pleased.

Redemption is messy. And loud. It involves homemade eye patches, endless questions and many attempts. It requires that we "emancipate ourselves from mental slavery" and get the job done. In the end, it will "forward the generation triumphantly" and it is always, always worth it.

Won't you help me sing?