In Our Defense

I am quick to defend myself.  It happened again today.  An employee was doubly entered into our system because an incorrect social security number was used on the original record, eons before I arrived.  And yet, since it was my stamp on the current paperwork, all fingers pointed to me.  I hastened to my own defense (if you doubt that I’d make a good lawyer, you don’t know me very well).

Maybe that’s why it stung so much in Ukraine. I felt like I was seven again, being reprimanded.  Except that then, I usually deserved it.  This time, I didn’t understand the charges (3 different charges, 3 different sources) being levied against us.  Surprisingly, that was the thing that brought us together.  Six different people thrown together to teach English and suddenly, we were a group.  We hadn’t tried to form ourselves into a posse but someone else had taken that initiative. 

It’s hard to be told you’ve been doing something wrong.  Especially when the “something wrong” is never quite defined.  Where we allowing the kids to rough house too much?  Were we too friendly with the kids – not the strict authoritarians that the Ukrainian teachers hoped for?  Had our noisy drama class caused the problem?  Or the temptation of painting each other in the art room?  Even if we’d wanted to, none of us could point a finger at the others.

And we were instructed that if “it” continued, we’d be sent home.  “What, to England? With hot showers and tasty food?”  Considering that planes flew out of Kiev very rarely, it wasn’t much of a threat.  But it still stung.  As befit our various personalities, we reacted.  Jon and Mareike accepted the threat.  Helen, Dave and I inwardly rebelled (mostly that evening while lazing at the sauna).  Mark vocalized his indignation, which led to more awkward talks.  We were told to “forget this talk had ever happened and move on” but that only lasted until breakfast when another source arrived to rehash it again.  At times it felt incredibly silly.  Like a veteran, hating war but missing the close camaraderie, we had grown together out of our misfortune and invisible “I will never forget” flags were waving.

We were told not to befriend the kids (isn’t that what Jesus would have done?) and not touch each other any more (no more hugs for Mareike when she felt down) unless we were actively engaged in prayer.  You can imagine the antics that followed.  Jon and I began morning prayers with arms around shoulders.  Dave and I snickered when passing butter and our fingertips touched. The only time I recall almost obeying the mandate was when Dave and his soccer ball ended up in a 5 foot hole and I refused to pull him out (ok, I was all talk.  I did say almost.)  It felt like direct defiance to the authorities.


I was never one of those kids that bucked the rules and made my own.  But being forced into the role as kid again, not trusted as the adult that I am, not questioned before being accused, was too much.  To this day, I am quick to defend myself.


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