Love One Another
This is a difficult post to write, but I feel like it needs to be discussed.
Our little bedroom community on the edge of Austin attracted some attention from the media recently, after the local school district decided to provide insurance coverage for the domestic partners of its employees. For Texas school districts, this is a bold step and Pflugerville Independent School District is among the first in the state to extend these benefits. From an economic standpoint, it’s a win all the way around, as the teachers and their partners can receive full health insurance, and the district gains a competitive edge when hiring new employees.
But it’s not the economy that has some of our residents in a tizzy, as demonstrated by a recent school board meeting. Though the district’s new insurance policy is already in place and will become effective in January, crowds of people appeared last Thursday night to share their opinions with the school board. But because the issue was not on the agenda, the members could only sit and listen to the praise and complaints of the community.
A pastor of a large church in our city was interviewed by the local news, and he expressed his displeasure that residents were not notified of the district’s plan before it went into place. In reality, the district had no reason to notify us, since it is not a taxpayer issue. If their dental plan is changed, it doesn’t affect us as residents, and this new policy doesn’t either. But there is another issue at play here, and that is what divides our community.
I once taught in the school district and I applaud this decision. One could argue that it has been a long time coming, since other large corporations in the area, like Dell, IBM, and Motorola, have offered benefits to domestic partners for many years. But better late than never, right?
And my boys will attend the schools in the district, which have a great reputation for both teachers and academic performance. But right now, they attend the preschool run by the pastor’s church.
That is why my heart is torn in half.
When Ryan first heard the news story and the pastor’s reaction, he said, “Pull them out,” and I admit, I thought that, too, at first. Do we really want to pay to send our children to a school that is run by individuals with beliefs so different from our own?
But the more I think about it, the only conclusion I can reach is to leave our boys right where they are.
Now, I wasn’t naive when I chose this school. I knew its church affiliation and that this particular faith is quite conservative. But the school itself is a simple preschool with kind and loving teachers, and my boys are learning basic skills, making friends, and having a wonderful time. They hear Bible stories and know that God loves them, and truly, I think LOVE is at the core of my decision to keep them here.
I love the school, and my boys do, too. It is minutes from our house, in the middle of our town, and they are making friends that will, hopefully, move with them into elementary school and beyond. I don’t want to uproot them because of social and political issues beyond their understanding, and I want them to learn to love people with different opinions, too.
Removing them in the middle of the year would make a very powerful statement, I realize, but would it accomplish anything? Would it change minds? I honestly don’t think it would.
By staying, can my family choose to love our neighbors who think so very differently than us? Can we try to lead by example, with the possibility of maybe starting a conversation that could change a heart or two? I hope so.
At the very least, we will be teaching our children to love others despite our differences. And that is kind of the point, isn’t it?