I love office supply stores. The sight of all those empty notepads and colorful pens represents a range of possibilities. Such associations not only have to do with my work as a writer; they extend back into childhood. Shopping for school supplies was a delight and helped mitigate the let-down I felt over the end of summer vacation. Opening a new box of crayons or unwrapping a sheaf of notebook paper generated excitement over what a new year might bring. When I moved to the other side of the desk as a teacher, I loved unpacking new textbooks and arranging my classroom. While considering how to welcome my students, there was similar excitement over who they would be and how we would move through the year together.
Now that I am back on the road speaking to teachers and catechists, I run into the same enthusiasm. They look forward to opening up doors of knowledge and faith for children and young people, and seek inspiration and ideas about the best ways to do this. Those who are new to catechetical ministry or teaching are especially eager to unwrap creative possibilities and put them to use.
For those who have been at this work for some time, it might be a temptation to keep retrieving the “old supplies” from the shelf – lesson plans that have become tattered by over-use or that have lost their luster due to lack of enthusiasm or creative effort. It reminds me of a comment my son made about a well-known film director. “He seems to be phoning it in,” Eric noted about the director’s latest release. Sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ should never be a “phone-in” effort. It takes vibrant interest and sharp thinking. Like a brand new box of crayons, it is a multi-hued process, one that requires not only passing along knowledge of the faith, but also the cultivation of a rich spiritual life and practical ways to put words into action.
Saint Paul, never one to “phone it in”, ended his letters with words of encouragement to fledgling Christian communities. In his second letter to the Corinthians, he urged them to rejoice. “Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you” (2Corinthians 13:11). What better way to start a new year than with a similar supply of good will and joy in our hearts and minds?
Read another reflection on the joy of crayons. Then generate a conversation with fellow teachers or catechists. What are you looking forward to as a new school year begins?