by Joe Dennis
Anxiety weighs down the human heart, but a good word cheers it up.
After a relaxing five-day weekend, I dreaded jumping into the last couple weeks of the semester. Last night my anxiety was stoked by thinking about the 100+ tests, papers and final projects that would consume the next 10 days, not to mention the usual holiday stress.
It took me an extra cup of coffee to make the 50-mile commute to my office this morning. As I’m driving, the email and text message alerts started rolling in. I use red lights to catch up on my messages. (Yes, I know this is illegal, but I typically don’t reply – I just read. Does that make it any better?)
- First red light. Text from a student. “I can’t make our final exam date. What do I need to do?” Ugh.
- Second red light. Email from the dean. “We expect you to have a 75% completion rate on course evaluations.” OK. Quick check on my completion percentages … 11%. Crap.
- Third red light. Text from my mom. “When are you guys coming to visit? You know you didn’t visit last summer. And you only came once last year.” Add guilt to my anxiety.
- Fourth red light. Text from a student. “I’m here in the podcast studio working on my final podcast, but I think I shoved the mini-SD card in too far and it’s stuck in the board and I think it shorted the board. When will you be here?” Oh boy. There are 18 students who need to use that board this week – what will I do if it’s broken?
- Fifth red light. Email from a student who I haven’t heard from or seen in months. “Hey. I’m wondering if there’s anything I can do to pass your class?” Quick look at her grade – it’s a 13%. That’s cute.
I had to stop looking at messages before more things were added to my mental “to-do” list (physical lists stress me out). I tried to drown out my thoughts with music for the rest of the ride, but that didn’t work. By the time I walked into my building, I was a mental wreck. I headed to my office there was a note taped on my door (and all other professor doors):
“Finals week is stressful — not only for the students, but also for professors. You did an amazing job teaching us this semester. Let’s start the week strong and finish the semester stronger!”
The note was unsigned. But I know who it was from. It was produced by a student or a group of students, but the message was from God.
Every time my life seems to going off the rails, God somehow gets me back on track.
Prayer: God, we know that you work through us to be a positive force in this world. During this stressful holiday season, in every interaction we have, help us be beacons of light for those around us.