“Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around - nobody big, I mean - except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff - I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be.”―
If ever I were to question my choice of career...this would have been the week.
As I sat in my little counselor's office at the school, meeting one-by-one with deeply grieving souls in the tiniest of bodies, one child took a sidestep away from the conversation at hand, "So...what are you going to do tonight?"
A hollow laugh escaped, "Me???? Ummmmm...well, honestly, I'm probably going to be processing all of this."
The child appeared perplexed.
"I mean...this is ALL SO SAD! It is so very, very hard. It hurts my heart, too. But right now, I have to take all of those emotions, put them in a cookie jar (so to speak) and put that jar on the shelf. Because right now, I HAVE to be able to focus on helping YOU and the others process your pain." I paused. "Then, later, I'll take the jar back down and start dealing with the emotions, myself."
The child expressed sympathy at my plight, but I assured her, as a grown adult, I had chosen this career. "It actually helps me to help others." She was satisfied and continued processing her own grief with me.
The Catcher in the Rye has long been in my top 5 of favorite books. My mom likes to remind me that it is also, often, the favorite of serial killers. (She has always had a way with words...). Being as I am not a serial killer, I can't speak to the fascination from that specific group of people.
HOWEVER...I can say that there is something in the voice of Holden Caulfield that resonates deep within my soul. His tendency toward a lonely, depressed perspective. His hints of feeling eternally isolated. His desire to make sense of all the disgustingness of the world, and his inability to overlook it. But the capstone, for me, has always been the title quote.
"What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff - I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all."
Children are a gift from God.
We lost one from our fold, this week. She was a particularly bright light in the school, and there is not one of us unscathed from the loss. Our hearts ache, and the gap won't be quick to heal.
But, even as I mourn, I will remain fixed on the job at hand...one by one, I will help to catch them as they begin to teeter and fall. I will offer empathy, compassion, a genuine listening ear. I will be honest and truthful. I will offer love, hope and prayers. I will pick them up, hug them, and help them shift back on course. Because, that is what a counselor does.
I sighed, sadly, as another child looked at me through agonizing eyes, "I CAN'T go on without her!"
I smiled, empathetically. "I know. I know how that feels. We don't WANT to go on without her. We don't WANT to move on. It feels like we are leaving her behind. But that's not what we are doing. The truth is, we will each of us carry her with us wherever we go, for the rest of our lives. And go on we MUST.
"I know, right now, it feels like you can't. But.." very gently, now, "the truth is, you CAN. We don't WANT to...but we CAN."
As a community, we will walk through our loss together, and together, we will survive. However, you can be sure our hearts will be forever changed, and hopefully, made better, by the beautiful life we have loved and lost.
After all is said and done, I'm not sure I chose this career. I kind of think the career chose me.