Our theme for the month of March is “Part Two.” Writers were challenged to choose a piece they’ve previously contributed to the post calvin and revisit it, perhaps writing a sequel or reflecting on how things have changed.

Abby’s original post is “The Company You Keep.”

After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla…Paul went to see them, and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks…

I still talk to myself. Big conversations I’ve rehearsed of late include a breakup, a car insurance claim, and a defense of “inappropriate” literature I’ve chosen for a class. In the shower, in an empty house, on a long bus ride—I’ve practiced quite a few things I plan to say and lots more that I won’t dare. And then there are the everyday conversations, little chats and catchups with friends who have moved away. I get lots of unpleasant complaining out this way, leaving space for more positive material in real life conversations like RuPaul updates, movie reviews, and discussion of summer adventures. I recently got the Marco Polo app, a video chat service that works like a walkie talkie or a Snap that doesn’t go away. And once you’ve recorded, there’s no going back. No do overs, no deleting messages—it’s sort of a nightmare for someone who prefers to plan conversations. But I’m learning.

One place I’ve started to notice more automaticity in speech, though, is in my teaching. Some days I don’t feel like I’m following a script. Conversation flows freely in a few of my classes, and I’ve begun to figure out why other teachers feel pressed for time most days—there’s just so much good stuff to discuss, and students are more insightful than they seem. I’m learning to ask questions on the fly, to give up total control of the conversation and follow rabbit trails.

Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. But when they opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God…

I think part of the reason it’s so easy to get students talking right now is that there are so many injustices, sorrows, and frustrations waiting to be addressed. Lots of things make me want to shake out my clothes these days. When a school is no longer a place a safety, I feel like throwing a shoe. When the person in charge of making it safe seems incompetent, I want to rip off a cardigan and throw up my hands. When the white, wealthy world continues on, seemingly ignorant of the poor and brown, it’s sometimes easier just to storm out, to claim innocence.

One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.

But those situations, I realize, are really what all my rehearsal should be for. Nothing changes when we’re silent. I think we have to believe that the city will rise up, that there are enough of us who have had #enough, who will chime in with #metoo, who will go see a movie simply because the character is black and powerful or a girl and smart. So let’s keep on speaking. Let’s stay here at least another year and a half. If you have to measure that out in weeks or days to get through, so be it. But if we all start practicing and speaking up, we may find ourselves with more company than we ever imagined.

“Nothing can come of nothing,” King Lear advises his daughter Cordeila. “Speak again.”

Abby Zwart

Abby Zwart (’13) teaches high school English in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She spends her free time making lists of books she should read, cooking, and managing the post calvin.

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