Today, I walked through Cristo Rey's halls, and said good bye to all the places I have spent so many days, and even nights.
My throat clogged with two years' worth of tears as I said good-bye to old classrooms and hallways. Sometimes it was even just a corner of a wall that I pass each day which suddenly becomes blessed and beloved because of memories that make her hallowed.
I walked into the third floor girls' bathroom, where I feel I spent an entire summer and a lifetime. Making art with friends, making something beautiful among the cockroaches, broken air-conditioning and hearts. I sat on the counter and felt the walls of the bathroom expand and contract. Entire other worlds and stories contained inside her tiles, elastic with memory.
I walked into the library, which Joe was arranging so beautifully. Joe has a gift for cleaning all the dirt that people let gather in their complacency. There is nothing about Joe that is complacency. He possesses the energy of grace: the ability to reach into all the unnoticed corners and shed light there.
Under his gentle care, the fly-infested library, which had been, for so long, in disordered shambles, has become a thing of ordered beauty.
And he has brought warmth to it, so it is now the sort of circle of quiet care in a loud and unfeeling world. The place you can retreat to; it is a sanctuary. And every sanctuary needs a priest to curate it.
Joe is that warm and holy presence that can bring a joyful, vibrant life to even a disordered hoard of books. Joe has the sort of thoughtful care that I imagine Galway Kinnell ascribes to St. Francis, the ability to reteach a thing his loveliness, to remind the sow and flower of her blessedness.
He is the sort of person who will always listen to your feelings, but never indulge in your sentiment.
And when you flop onto a chair and mourn the loss of a home, of being phased out of a place you love, he is one to smile at tears that are worth having and say: Go say good-bye to Cristo Rey. And let that be enough for now.
Let that be enough for today: to say good-bye to one place and all the people inside the place.
So I walked to the stage, where I have discovered that I was a teacher, and where I was taught by many students. And I said a simple prayer on the polished wood floor, scuffed from many shoes of many students. For all that will be: yes.