Thursday, April 12, 2012

K is for Kathy

Some people just never seem to be grouchy. No hint of a foul mood, no inkling of emotional ungluing going on in the midst of chaos and bedlam. No sarcasm, snide remarks, or sighing that might intimate irritation.

It would be one thing if that person lived alone without a job, health issues, or financial concerns. It's quite another if that person is a grandmother, the mother of six children, (two of whom have Muscular Dystrophy) in a smallish old house, and who directs a homeschool co-op of over 150 people every Thursday for 24 weeks a year plus at least another eight weeks of planning each year. It's beyond amazing that she has done this for many years (I'm not sure how many) and I've never once heard Kathy complain.

In the seven years that I've known Kathy, I have never heard her complain about her aching back, the logistical difficulties of getting from point A to point B with two wheelchairs in her van, or the hassles that inevitably come with an organization comprised of about 40 women and their 124 children (with 12 on the way at any given time, or so it seems). Take away the children and that's still a crazy lot of estrogen to be around for three hours a week! It would be my undoing but Kathy smiles and answers questions and flexes and tends to people and tasks almost acrobatically with what looks like "the greatest of ease." Administration and serving are only two of her gifts and she does them both with affable cheer.

One of the things I have appreciated about Kathy as a teacher in her co-op is that she manages but doesn't micromanage. When I've asked her what I should focus on in my art classes, she leaves it open ended and says, "As long as they are learning and having a good time, do what you want!"

I am not in Kathy's close circle of friends (wish I was) so I can only speak to what I've witnessed in her life in co-0p for several years. Her typical morning consists of getting out the door a little after 7 a.m. in order to get to the church, open it, and set things up before the hurricane of homeschoolers roll in and assault her senses at 8:30ish. Of course she wouldn't use the word "assault" because she thrives in a hectic environment which she has worked hard to pre-organize. Some organized people let you know full well if you're messing up "their system" but not Kathy. She very much conveys the feeling that "this is OUR system. WE are in this together." And yes ,the moms and dad who teach and assist in every capacity certainly do make up the co-op system, but many of them (us) are not nearly as organized and not nearly as cheerful when "our" system gets messed with. (Can I get an "amen"?)

Not only does Kathy direct the co-op, she also directs its spring and Christmas musicals. Do you realize what a feat that is when you have only 12 weeks, one hour a week, to work with (plus several more hours of rehearsal near the end, outside of normal co-op hours)? The grace of God is all over her, as some would put it. It's evident that Kathy spends a lot of time in prayer, calling on God to supply all she needs. Physical strength. Emotional fortitude. Mental clarity. Logistical organization. Money. Patience. Joy.

Her joy is borne of much suffering. Watching her son go into surgery for a spinal fusion at age 13 and come out of it a paraplegic. Watching her daughter, many years later, go in for a similar surgery, wondering, praying, hoping against hope that paralysis would not result for her youngest child. (With much thanks to God, that girl did not suffer the same consequences.)

All the while, every week, each year that I taught, Kathy would come around to each classroom to lock up, and thank each teacher for coming and teaching and doing an "amazing" job. (Her word, not mine. She is effervescent; I am only average as an art teacher.) She complimented my students' work and my creativity and never made me feel like a bother for asking where so-and-so was or if I could spend such-and-such on needed art supplies.

On days when I just didn't feel like getting myself and my able-bodied son out the door on Thursday because it was raining or cold to go teach my two little classes and help with another, I would think of Kathy and all she had to go through to get there. I didn't want to let her down. If she could be faithful in the large things, I could be faithful in the small. If she could be cheerful while responsible for the logistics of 150 people, surely I could handle my 25.


Thank you, Kathy, if you are reading this. Thank you for showing me what genuine joy looks like. Thank you for leaving a legacy of cheerful service to all who know you. And thank you for encouraging me many years ago to step out in faith to do what I never dreamed I would be doing--teaching art and loving it. You are one of my heroes and I love you.



Anonymous said...

that is one amazing woman...lovely tribute

Briana Almengor said...

I couldn't agree more. She is absolutely all that you have described here and inspires me, too!

Joyce said...

She sounds inspirational indeed!

Lea @ CiCis Corner said...

Oh, I do hope Kathy does read this. What a lovely tribute! And, sounds like to know her is to love her. I'd love to meet her!

Zoanna said...

Lea, Briana sent her a link (thanks, Bri) and Kathy read this post. She called me tonight and said how touching it was to read, that most people don't get to hear things like this until the funeral and then it's too late. My purpose is to let people know while they're alive how much they mean to me.

Laurie said...

Lovely and kind Kathy!
May God bless the work of her hands! May God equip, strengthen and prepare her heart, mind and body for each task, trial and blessing!

Susan Kane said...

It is a testimony to God how Kathy has worked through her hardships and yet has joy. What a strong witness!