I must admit, Holly’s rendering of a cross-cultural Mary touches my heart. In it, I see the shy expression of hundreds of teen girls I’ve taught. The omnipresence of Mary’s love is essential because I can’t rely on yesterday’s beliefs. I need the renewal of her guidance near me everyday.
Like today. One of my students stands outside the classroom. I will call her Jasmine. She’s only fourteen, tells me her birthday is soon; in fact, it’s four months away. But she’s eager to turn fifteen, to shed her childhood as fast as she can. I know it’s actually years before she’ll be able to leave the tumult of the daily dysfunction she endures.
“It’s bad,” she whispers, her eyebrows raised.
“I know, honey.” We face one another in the hallway, the classroom door slightly shut, the rest of the kids getting settled for my class. I often take this sort of private time with students. It’s not really private, and it’s not ever enough time. But I practice something my spiritual director taught me: I imagine a thread between my heart and Jasmine’s, connecting us, a bridge.
I knew when Jasmine walked through my door in September that something wasn’t right—the bags under her espresso-brown eyes, the gaunt shadows in light brown cheekbones, the endless talk of being hungry, her head put down on the desk, the furtive movements of her eyes keeping secrets.
Jasmine shakes her head. I can see the Mary in her. The holiness. I think, “Hail Mary, full of grace.” I don’t even have time to complete the whole prayer. What to say to this child? I notice she’s wrapped her hair exceptionally high today, pinned it into an enormous smooth nest standing tall.
I attempt to redirect her sorrow. “You’re like a queen with that bun.”
Her teeth are crooked and her lips are chapped but her smile is luminous. She admits, “I know. I am rockin’ this bun.”
Though Jasmine is barely five feet, I tease her, “You’re like, what, six feet tall with that thing?”
“Yes,” she agrees, pleased. I hold her gaze, her irises dancing with light. I reach toward the handle and pull it and we step through the door together. If I could have one wish, it would be to have all the girls of the world lift their eyes up with hope. All the girls. Each Lily. Each Rose. Each Violet.
Mary, help me to take the time for others, not always rushing in and out, but fully experiencing moments that last and sharing memories.