One day last spring I was volunteering at my children's school, as I often do. This particular day I was signed up to be with the kindergarten class, reading with the kids one-on-one in the hallway outside the classroom.
Somewhere in between trying to make myself comfortable in a chair that Goldilocks would have definitely deemed "too small," and gently reminding a sweet little boy about how a Magic E works, an ear-splitting, brain-jangling alarm goes off overhead. Loud alarms almost always paralyze me internally, and since I'm already sort of glued to Baby Bear's all-wrong-for-this-bum chair, all I can do is turn my head right and left to try and figure out what's going on. I look at my patient little kindergartner reader on my left and then I turn to the right and wait for a teacher to come along and give me the "wink, wink, nudge, nudge" that means some little kid has pulled an alarm and maybe we need to line up and go outside. But the "wink, wink" moment never comes. What does happen is that every door on the hallway opens wide, almost simultaneously. Teachers charge forth from all the classrooms, some of them with red backpacks over their shoulders. And the students? All these tiny little people wordlessly line up and follow their teachers, no questions asked.
In 110% less time and questions than it would take me to get my own two children in shoes and jackets and out the door, our entire school of 1,000+ students, teachers and staff are lined up outside the building. Silent. Awaiting instructions. No one is panicked. No one is goofing off. No one is crying.
I stand on that playground with my daughter's class and look around at all the neat lines of children and adults. I watch those children stand patiently and look to the head of their lines at their teachers with all the trust they can hold in their tiny little hearts, and I get a giant lump in my throat.
I think to myself, "These people KNOW THE DRILL."
After several minutes, the principal appears and climbs on a table with a bullhorn. It is all, indeed, just a drill. The tone relaxes a little and a few kids get some of their sillies out as we head back inside, overall still orderly and single-file.
It is now late in the afternoon and once we get back the classroom, my time slot for reading is over. My short stint of responsibility is complete, and I am able to waltz out to my car with no more school duties or classroom concerns other than the ones my own children will bring home with them.
How had I never given more thought to this? That on top of teaching my children how to read and do math and be responsible citizens, this entire team of people is in charge of keeping my children SAFE. Protecting them from all kinds of harms that I don't even want to think about.
My goodness, the world is so scary. Tornadoes can form in an instant, upending entire towns. Fire can rip through buildings, destroying structures while all we can do is watch. Earthquakes can move the very ground under our feet. Pure evil can show up in any form and take away what is most precious to us in an instant. This is the world we live in. But, also, this world we live in is home to people that are full of love and compassion. There are off-duty volunteer firefighters that will put themselves between a loaded gun and a schoolyard of children. There are teachers who will work tirelessly until a student reaches an "aha" moment. There are doctors that will refuse to leave patients until an answer is found. People that rush in to save others, when logic says to run away as fast as possible. People that don't freeze when the alarm goes off, but that KNOW THE DRILL.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, to all the people out there that know the drill. None of us can do this alone. You are the light that keeps this village, and this world, from going completely dark.