Let me tell you about one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met.
His name was Lerric Odd. Really.
He was an aide who I believe God brought into my life early in my career as a teacher. He is brilliant at what he does. An artist, almost.
He is the sort of figure who belongs in film, or in a book, more than he belongs in real life. Lerric is a tall black man with features that appear chiseled out of stone. He’s got this love of gaudy silk shirts. And he’s got this way about him. A strength and confidence and a deep knowing of who he is. A humility, and this great sense of humor.
I learned more from Lerric than I learned in all the education classes I ever took, added with all the things I was supposed to learn in all the inservice trainings I’ve ever been in, combined with all the teaching advice I’ve ever heard.
Lerric was shrouded in mystery. He’d worked for the residential facility I taught at sense it had opened. He had just gotten out of prison. He walked into the place. It wasn’t opened yet. He told the man in charge that he didn’t have many skills. He said he’d learn fast and work hard. And he stayed at the place for years.
At some point he lost his wife and child to a car accident. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor and did not know how long he would live.
I was terrible when I started teaching and I learned so much from Lerric. I learned a little something of the camaraderie experienced by soldiers in that job. We had so little in common, Lerric and I, but this bond! It was this deep thing. I could read him at a glance and he could read me.
Especially when the chips were down. When a student was violent, or aggressive, or self injurous. It got to the point with Lerric that we didn’t have to talk when we put our hands on the kids. We just flowed.
On a wider level, when I contemplate the relationships I’ve been engaged in, the thing I realize is that in my very closest relationships, words are optional. They are not the only way that we communicate. Things go unspoken, and somehow just known. There is something deeper than speaking.
That’s the point I’m contemplating right now: words are for people who are not very close together. There are types of closeness that run deeper than the need for words.
And yet, when we think of prayer, most of the time, we think about something that could so easily be translated to spoken or written words. At it’s worst (and much to often) this would read like a Christmas wish list: all the things we want Santa-God to bring us.
Such a prayer suggests a person who is not very close to the diety he is praying to. Such a prayer does not at all sound like the sort-of thing done by a person who is near to his God, who is in him and has God in him.