There is a scene in the Pixar movie The Incredibles where Elastigirl is holding up a careening jet with all her strength, guiding the plummeting plane that holds her dearest cargo, her children, to a safe landing on a tropical island. She has stretched out her arms, legs, and torso to their most extreme lengths, and as she maneuvers and uses every inch of her strength and flexibility to hang on and become a parachute, the movie audience knows that she is an incredible superhero. To me much of the past sixteen months have felt like this scene. We all have stretched, pulled, held on, and maneuvered into strange new contortions in response to the pandemic, and we, too, have been superheroes. Educators have been a model for elasticity, flexibility, and stamina.
It is no wonder that as we transition into summer I am feeling burned out. Last year at this time I was wading through the unknown of the pandemic along with the rest of the world, wondering how to keep in touch with the children and families from my church as we all stayed safe at home. What was usually a rhythm of end-of-school and start-of-summer activities lengthened into days of new outreach and pivoting to using online classroom and meeting space to nurture kids in the midst of this strange and frightening experience. Summer is certainly not usually a slow time for children’s ministry, but it has a different pace filled with outdoor events, community VBS, week-long camps, and fun excursions. Last summer was a strange combination of being held back from in-person programming and working frantically to imagine new ways to connect and foster continued spiritual relationships.
The past school year is a blur. Like the moments of the plane falling rapidly and Elastigirl making instant decisions of how to grip, contort, shift, and safely land, the year sped by in a rapid flurry of online, then hybrid, then outdoor ministry. We pivoted, reimagined, researched, attended webinars, called our colleagues, searched for answers, and kept right on meeting the spiritual and faith-building needs of children and their families. I never once wanted to stop or let go, but I also knew my arms were getting very weary from holding on.
Elastigirl lands the plane and hugs her kids in relief and joy. She checks them over and recovers for a moment before they quickly take off toward their next obstacle. I need a minute to let my arms rest by my side and breathe. But I see that the kids are safe and we made it. We are ready to go forth again on our journey of faith.