Friday, June 11, 2010

Facing My Past

Every time I turn around these days I bump into my past. Obviously I have a lot more past than I used to; maybe that's why it keeps showing up.

When I was barely 18 I left home to teach grades one to eight in a small Beachy-Amish community. Actually they were somewhere between Amish and Beachy, which matters only because I thought I was cooler than they were, and believe me it took some effort to be less cool than me.

My students were a tight-knit bunch, all siblings or cousins to each other. Most were sweet but some were ornery and a few were downright hostile.

Especially the oldest boys. And most especially the 8th grader whom I will call Isaac to protect all concerned.

He ignored me when I asked him to do anything, refused to look at me or smile, always gave me the feeling he was rustling up trouble, drew hideous monsters when I asked them to draw self-portraits for an art project, and talked and laughed with his friends but clammed up sullenly when I came within earshot.

Come to think of it, he wasn't that different from a few teenagers I've raised since.

Anyway, we recall here that I was barely 18 and shoved into a situation I was utterly unprepared for, and left to sink or swim.

Which does not excuse the fact that I made a huge power struggle out of what should not have been one, and never asked for help from anyone, and punished the boys in the stupidest possible ways which I will not elaborate on because I still have a shred of pride.

When the year finally, mercifully, ended, I left and went as far as I could go (Oregon) and tried to put it behind me and vowed to never look back and shut that door and double-locked it.

This resolve lasted 30 years, up until just a few weeks ago, when a girl in the youth group said offhandedly that their dad's friend "Isaac Hostetler" and his family are coming for a wedding.

No. It couldn't be. Surely there are lots of Isaac Hostetlers in this world.

I called the girl's mom and asked for details. Yes, it really was him. And when I told her the story she screamed and laughed so loud it nearly cracked my phone.

Lord have mercy. I would finally have to face my past.

I cannot tell you how hard this was. Worst was the dread, fueled by gleeful texts from the hostess about how they were hearing the whole story from HIS perspective and laughing their heads off.

I called Matt because he is a good comforting person. He said, "Mom! I had no clue! You never told us you taught in an Amishy school right after high school!"

Sunday morning we went to church and our friends and their guests all pulled in at the same time. We got out of the car and I grabbed Paul's sleeve. "I've gotta get this over with. Come with me."

I walked over to Isaac and shook his hand. "Hello Isaac," I said timidly, and he said, "Dorcas! I gotta give you a hug!" and he did, and that was one of the most healing moments of my whole life.

Later we talked more and caught up with both our families. Isaac is a nice guy with a lovely wife and family. He had a kind look in his eyes and a great sense of humor, and he is way cooler than me. I hope he could see that the Holy Spirit and the intervening years have wrought some changes in me as well.

You know, logically, I can give myself some grace because I was 18 and if that school board was dumb enough to hire an air-headed 18-year-old, well, that's exactly what they got. But still, I made idiotic decisions and have regretted them ever since and there's no denying that. But now the padlocks are off that door if Isaac and I see each other again we will be friends and that is a very good feeling.

Quote of the Day:
"This is just getting 2 funny!!! :) theyre all enjoying this! The story had all sorts of interesting details!"
--a text message from Isaac's hostess that made my heart sink to previously unknown depths


  1. Thanks for telling your story. I cried when I read it, maybe because I am a schoolteacher, and I have had plenty of difficult students over the years. The way you described how Isaac was in school and then how he is today gave me hope.

  2. I recall getting a "tour" of that schoolhouse when I was about 7 by one of the cousins. I remember very distinctly, it was a house that stank of mold. And they showed me where the teacher slept during the week. They showed me the bathroom that had a toilet you flushed with a bucket of water. the conditions startled my young mind.

    I don't know if that was during your time or not but I think all around the situation was quite desperate. But nobody seems to have permanent scars--thanks be to God.

  3. Regret is proof that we've grown!

  4. ahhh, loved the "Isaac" story ending! I was one of the 5th grade cousins at the time, I was the only sibling of my family in school, and rather oblivious to a lot of stuff going on. Still there were times I sensed tentions, but mostly I had an enjoyable year. For the record, I thought you were way cool when you taught. Still are!
    I couldn't help but smile when I envisioned Isaacs storytelling. He's a fantastic storyteller, and I'm sure he said it all completely humorourly and without any malice.
    I also remember you as a fantastic story teller, as well as story reader. Story time after lunch was always one of my favorite time, but especially when you taught cause you really made the stories come alive.
    So glad the paddlocks are off for you for that year. God's grace really is amazing isn't it?

  5. Loved the "Isaac" story. It's amazing how God uses time to take care of things in our past. I remember some boys in my classes who picked on me mercilessly to the point I did everything I could to avoid them. Found out many years later that they had little childhood "crushes" on me, but I sure didn't see it that way as a child.

  6. Just goes to show that 'experience' is the best teacher, as much as it hurts our egos to know that WE aren't the best teacher! I think every teacher has an 'Isaac' story. I taught adult ed and overeacted to things way more than I want to even think about. Running into your former students that are bank tellers or court clerks really has a humbling effect!

  7. Ha! Love this story. Thanks so much for sharing! :)

  8. Oh, my, you could almost write my story for me! Only I was not quite 18 when I started, and I only had the first 4 grades. How I cringe now at what I thought was a good course of action then. And about my immaturity in other ways! Ohh, I hope they NEVER put on a school reunion! I've met up with some of them since, and I don't think they have any idea how much I adored them!! Where's the nearest cave?! -PC in VA

  9. Dorcas, come on, youre too hard on yourself!!I was in the same grade as 'Isaac'...I seem to remember a comment muttered by you that went something like'Isaac' The Terrible. Too ,too funny...that was quite the school..Minnesota , quite the experience..lets leave it at that. YOU, my dear lady, were a bright spot in my very sheltered world..helped shape me,gave me a glimpse of...something... you were quite worldly ya know!I will never forget , when you went out of yoyr way to get some books I requested at the library,told me you got them for my benefit...warm fuzzies! I sure would love to get to see you some day! Blessings, Rosa (Peachey) Miller