Saturday, March 08, 2008

Cockroaches, chairpersons, teachers, and God – something about waiting

Ever wonder how in the world can these four words, cockroaches, chairpersons, teachers, and God, be put together? What follows is my naïve and random thought at your disposal.

When I was a little boy, life was kind of miserable. My father worked hard, was sent to various military bases as his duty required, and had very little time for his family gathering. Sometimes, my parents had a big fight after dinner, afterwards my mom would go out to have her hairs cut or washed at night. I was terrified, lying on bed, pretending that I was sleeping but wondering when she would come home safely, while the clock-ticking accompanied me thru the dawn. That was sad waiting, waiting my beloved one to come back to me.

On other quiet nights, I was also waiting. Not waiting for my mom but waiting for a big ugly cockroach to quietly leave the corner just one foot distance from my bed side. I could see it well, so did it. Guess that we both were staring at each other and waited for the other to retreat. Hey, where could I possibly go in the middle of the night at my own home? I prayed that it would go to the houses of some my nasty friends since they treated me badly at school. It had a lot of choice, did it? Why did it choose to be at my house as I had behaved as a good boy? [By the way, at that time the book “When Bad Things Happened to Good People” was not published.] That was another kind of waiting, waiting the bastard to get out of my sight. Of course, if my brother, presumed knowing its coming, intended not to kill the cockroach with a sandal, I probably won’t forgive him.

Many years later, as my social life was getting interesting, every now and then, I was also waiting, waiting for my loved ones to come back to me, both in heart and in a flesh. Some unexpectedly came and caught my breath, seized my heart, but eventually vanished. Endless love soon proved to be endless sorrow, followed by numerous sleepless nights. Some years ago, my heart was torn into pieces. Luckily, a person who was and still is deeply caring for me whispered: “Just want you to know that I love you and God loves you too.” Then I realized that I was waiting for the wrong person. The person I waited would never come back to me while she and God had been there watching for me all the time even I was not aware of. So, I learned that sometimes waiting could be stupid and have negative returns.

We all need to work to pay the bills. In my teaching career since 1988, I often had bad luck in having decent bosses. Some tampered the teaching evaluations, some altered the minutes, and some made false accusations. You might say that many of them got away because that God was taking a nap or their time was not up yet. But I chose to remind myself of what the book “When Bad Things Happened to Good People” was for. And I shall have faith and patience in God. This is another kind of waiting, waiting in style and with gratitude.

So much for having bad luck with chairpersons. One day, I thought in an American way: If you cannot beat them, why not join them? So, I became a chairperson myself. Very soon, life was never made busier. When the so-coined honeymoon was over, frustration and disappointment gradually ate up my soul. Then came another type of waiting, waiting for my 3-year appointment to expire. I bet that when I work on my memoir, I shall be proud of myself in stepping down the post in dignity and in perfect timing. As to applause or encore, a shy person like me would never expect nor appreciate it.

We teachers must deal with students in our entire career. So, I wait, wait for students to become far-sighted, to understand what the term grade inflation means, to value their education opportunities, to critically read my teaching materials as much as journal referees did with my manuscripts, and to be able to speak up and demand what their parents paid for. Overall and honestly speaking, I have been disappointed. But, an old saying rings the bell: “If you cannot stand the heat, stay away from the kitchen.” It all comes with the paycheck. So, again, I wait graciously till my retirement.

Students are kept waiting too. Sometimes they wait for teachers to show up; sometimes they wait for substitute teachers for courses that might be cursed. There was an old joke. Two professors were bragging about who was a better teacher. One professor said: “You know? If I am late for class for 20 minutes or more, my students were still waiting for me in the classroom. Am I a good professor or what?” Another replied: “Well, that probably was because that you were consistently late for class. In my case, should I be late for 5 minutes, all students will think that I must be prevented from teaching for reasons that were beyond my control, so they won't wait for me.”

Is God waiting too? Or, should we say, are God’s servants waiting? Many pessimistic people think that the world is in chaos. Bad things did happen to good people. On the one hand, messengers who delivered bad news were killed just for delivering the unwanted yet true information. On the other hand, falsified messages were spread at light speed to confuse those who do not have good faith. That reminds me of the Taiping Rebellion (1850–64). It is the wake-up time!

Finally, I am waiting, waiting for my intended audience, yes, I mean you, the Mighty Bosco and my dear Sister, to read this fable (or metaphor?) before we all report to Heaven's Gate.

Note: 如果『很會出奇招的教育部』要求,大專教師要參加英文寫作測驗,作文題目碰巧是「Waiting」,不知這樣寫,閱卷教授會不會欣賞啊?

Followup: At the time I wrote it (in early 2008), Jerry, my young and restless friend, told me that my intended audience simply won't read it. Well, I do believe that we are in the good hands of God. Evidence abound. Some asked for the hidden information about the cockroach. Here is the hint for smart people: from 07 to 06 to 03 (and to ?).