As I’m reading through a few blogs and facebook statuses dealing with loss and disappointment, I think back to two times I should have known I would be on the receiving end of bad news.
The first one that comes to mind happened when I was younger. I had applied for admission to the University of North Carolina and it was my first choice. I had already received acceptance letters from Meredith College and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (where I would ultimately go). I was eagerly awaiting my response as almost all of my friends had heard and most had gotten in. I kept calling and calling their notification line. For a couple of weeks, no news. Finally, I got a lady who said a decision would be made and she would not be able to tell me but I would get the notification in the mail. I should have known something was up. Five of my friends who had been accepted had been told over the phone they were accepted. This woman was adamant she would not tell me. A few days later, I got the slim envelope with the one page rejection notice saying “many qualified candidates were turned away and blah, blah, blahgety, blah, blah.” I was devastated. Even now it stings. They might as well have told me “we’re just not that into you. See ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya.”
The second was much more recent. Last summer I anxiously awaited the news of William being accepted into the pre-K program. I had stood in lines and filled out forms. Joseph had attended the previous year, I had every reason to believe we still qualified (no changes in income or otherwise) to believe William would be accepted. We cannot afford Pre-K on our own so I did not apply for any other program. Finally, just a couple of weeks before school started, I heard friends had gotten notification. I called three times, each time I was given the run-around. Finally, a week before school started, I got the notification. William was denied based on our income. He did not meet any of the extenuating circumstances (single parent household, English as a second language, developmental delay etc). It was too late to get him into any other program we could not afford anyway. Everywhere I called was both a) full and b) had closed their waiting lists. I knew in my heart of hearts I was not a good enough teacher to do this, but I had to suck it up. My parents offered to pay for a program but seeing as no one had space for Will, it just wasn’t to be. While our situation hadn’t changed, the state’s had. Our income was over the limit under new guidelines and we were given so little notice, nothing could be done. It all turned out for the best, Will is doing very well, but I can’t help but wonder if he might not have done better with an actual classroom structure and more peers. It also makes for an awkward situation when I am at kindergarten round-up signing in and there is a spot of “preschool attended” and I see every other parent has filled in the name of rather prestigous schools and (as two teachers hover) I write in “none.” I look up and smile sheepishly. I want to say, “We’re good people! We got caught in a bad situation. His dad is a teacher, I work part-time less than 20 hours a week. We do our very best with him.” But I just smile and we go about our way. But I should have known when no one would or could answer my questions that the answer had been a resounding “no.” It galls me I couldn’t pay the registration fees for many of the other schools my parents could have helped us with tuition for.
I realize now the women (and they were all women) who refused to tell me the bad news over the phone. They were conflict averse. They wanted me to get the bad news impersonally so they could be absolved of any “wrong doing.” Even though in this case, they had very little to do with it.
I get it, no one likes to be the bearer of bad news, but sometimes, you just have to be. Sometimes you have to be the one to tell your child that no, they won’t get to go to Disney World this year (or next). I had to tell William he didn’t get into pre-K. And he was so upset. It broke my heart all over again. But I didn’t make his dad do it or just fail to bring it up ever again because he is only four. He deserves the truth. The truth is, human beings disappoint us time and time again. Or sometimes they just have to give us bad news they have no way of changing or making better. I tried to tell Will we could do lots of fun things, just me and him! But I know he had to be sad about not making new friends at school or doing all the fun things his brother had told him about.
As badly as the rejection of humans hurt and as much as we know we should have seen it coming, we must realize it is a part of our human failing. Our human fallen nature. We expect humans to be God and be wonderful, omnipotent, merciful creatures and when they’re not, it hurts. Badly. And we slap the side of our head thinking, “Dummy, shoulda seen it coming!” And we beat ourselves up when instead we should be clinging to God and understanding there is mercy there and love and all the things humans fail so miserably at in this life and that if we continue to cling to Him, even when it doesn’t make sense, even when it hurts, we will not be rejected. We won’t be in the line of goats on the left.
I have never personally seen or had visions of the final coming, but I have the Gospel of Matthew, I have the visions of Sister Faustina. I have felt His mercy lifting me up out of abysses largely of my own creation when I cried out, “Help!” I have read His word and felt in my heart the conviction of knowing I needed to change or I was doing good and keep it up. I have felt him lift my head above the waters of sin in confession as I receive absolution and my lungs fill with the air of eternal love and salvation. I know that He can give me and does give me all I need: the joy and the pain, all of it. Maybe it’s not that I should have known that humans would let me down, but that God will lift me up. He will allow every happiness, every suffering to raise me to be His true follower, His daughter.