Monday night I watched the local news – TV and Internet – attentively, awaiting word on school closings in my district in West metro Atlanta. No word. The weatherman did not forecast significant snow accumulation (in the South 1/2″ is significant!) in my area until the evening. Thus, I started my day on Tuesday expecting a full school day, perhaps with a cancellation of afterschool activities.
I knew the snow had started earlier than predicted when my students’ eyes began diverting toward the window and away from me in my 2nd period class. At the end of the period, the announcement buzzer elicited a sound of glee from the class, the students expecting a “we will be dismissing school early” directive issued from the principle. Instead, he said, “Go straight to your next class, not to the lunch room, when the bell rings. After school activities are cancelled for today” Yet the students’ glee was not crushed because they inferred that this meant that school administrators were contemplating the “conditions on the ground” and would soon decide to cancel the remainder of the school day.
They were right! An hour or so later, they announced that school would end an hour early, and that students who drove themselves must leave immediately. My wife got word and while she was en route to pick my elementary age children up early, I graded papers while monitoring the halls, wondering when I could leave and what might be the best route home. I had gotten word by this time of horrific traffic conditions on the major roads in our suburban town, and the chaos around me was increasing as buses were arriving at different times and parents were rushing to the school to bring their children home. A kindly janitor, who had come to clean my room, spoke critically, in response to the growing craziness, about the powers that be, saying that “they didn’t care about safety [a ridiculous accusation, I thought] or else they would have closed the school earlier.” The griping and blaming had already begun.
Once traffic around the school cleared, I headed home, lucky to have an easy back road route that took just a few minutes. My wife and children were not so fortunate as the already infamous traffic in Atlanta yesterday snarled them in a nearly 4 hour round trip (their school is about 15 minutes away from our house). They arrived home about an hour later, their eagerness to play in the snow extinguishing any flames of discontent sparked by long hours in the car.
As I learned about the full extent of the chaos – full school buses stuck, children stranded at school, friends stuck in traffic for hours – I imagined empathetically the vitriol that would be pouring into the superintendent’s office from the community and contrasted this with the joy of my students and my children in the gift of the snow and already announced school cancellation for the next day. This got me thinking about the Bible’s teaching on the two fundamentally opposed orientations we can have toward life, specifically concerning how we relate to the Power we believe to be in control of life: the principle of Law and the principle of Grace. The next post (coming later today!) will attempt to lay out these reflections.