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Notes from the Small Pond...A toast to the teachers

Next September will be the first First-Day-of-School since 1999 that a Thill kid doesn't walk, trudge, skip, sprint, sneak, lope, ramble or otherwise motivate his or her butt through the doors of 1000 18th St., Cloquet Senior High School. Poignant, somehow. My kids are beautiful, "fearfully created" and incredibly imperfect specimens of human potential. And, as is inherent in the concept of "potential," none of them have yet potentiated. And, my God, my love for them is intense enough to ache. Y'all know the feeling - the best evidence of God we've got. The best demonstration of grace. It's easy to love your kids. Whether they're the king of the mountain or goat-of-the-moat. Easy to love your children.

But what about loving other people's kids?

For a lot of us, it's easy in an abstract, proxy sort of way, ie: of course I love other people's kids...I love ALL kids...and then, parenthetically, we add: as long as they stay the hell out of my yard, as long as they treat me and mine with respect and dignity, as long as they aren't criminals or drug addicts or liars or killers... and so on.

But that ain't love, really. That's something like tolerance. Important, sure. Critical, even, in the context of social/political engineering. But it ain't love. So let's not pretend it is. When we merely tolerate other people's asinine, rude, addicted, incarcerated, ignorant, self-centered kids - or anyone really - let's not give ourselves credit for loving them. Let's call a spade a spade. Love is a verb. Not an emotion. Love means we do something. Like teach. Or serve and protect. Not just tolerate.

So, here's to the teachers. Like cops and firemen and the National Guard and the active military and the rest of those in the civil professions, teachers do the noblest of work. And - like cops, firemen, etc. - teachers get paid like crap, work like dervishes and are heaped with social responsibilities that exceed their job descriptions so dramatically that it'd be like asking Adrian Peterson to also play goalie for the Wild. Or be in the starting rotation for the Twins, actually, now that I think of it.

So, in this season of grad parties and macaroni salad and mortar boards, I raise my glass to The Teachers. The good ones. The advocates. The lovers of students. You know who you are. And you know who you aren't. And so does everyone else. As is always the case...You can't fake love. And it's hard to love a fake.

But not impossible.

Cloquet resident Parnell Thill, former Pine Knot author of "Notes From the Small Pond" column for nearly a decade, is resurrecting the column on a limited basis as he works on a collection of short stories by the same title, along with other writing projects.