Life as a School

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, August 30, 2020

By: Nell Cobb

As summer wanes and autumn descends, our collective eyes are on our schools: our children and their teachers. We all have had teachers who have changed the direction of our lives. Mainly, they have loved us through the challenges of learning at whatever grade and level. We never forget the influence of these special teachers.

In 1995, I was hospitalized for 37 days in a large teaching hospital in Vienna, Austria. My husband and I were on a 3-year assignment for an American Fortune 500 company in the Czech Republic. It was mid-June when I was struck by a mysterious illness which took us to one of the largest hospitals in Europe. After many days and numerous tests, the diagnosis remained elusive. I was in a fight. I soon realized that I needed to garner all of my inner resources to assist my doctors. Wimbledon was on television, and I remember watching Sampras polish off Becker in the men’s finals. The quiet, calm and gentlemanly way that Sampras won was impressive. I gained resolve from his win, his battle on Centre Court.

With a legal pad in hand, I started keeping a daily log: asking questions of my doctors each day, silently praying for them. From my experience, a teacher is always more interested in the student who is actively engaged in learning, showing interest. Besides, this exercise became integral to my attempt to understand and play a role in the outcome. As Bob Hetherington would say, I was attempting to “Lean In!”

Since Austria is predominately a Roman Catholic country, a crucifix hung over my hospital door. I had a daily reminder of Christ who suffered and died on the Cross. That reminder put my life in perspective. I was keenly aware that I was fortunate despite my present circumstances, in both large and small ways. I had friends and family praying for me and, no doubt, strangers. I felt the presence of those prayers. I was in one of the best hospitals in Europe, and I had some of the best doctors and nurses. Gradually, gratitude for each new day enveloped and surrounded me. I felt the presence of God.

Reflecting back, I call that period of time my Summer School in Vienna. I would say that we (as a collective body) have all been experiencing a sort of New School since mid-March with the sudden onset of COVID-19. We are learning new ways of living our daily lives in the world. We look to others, to our dear church, St. Mary’s, and ultimately to God our Father, Jesus our Lord and Savior and the Holy Spirit who is our Advocate and Teacher. We never stop learning, but I know that we have the best Teacher who loves us and is here to help us.

“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.” – John 14:26