Looking for Light at the End of the Tunnel

by on April 10, 2020 · 3 comments

in From the Soul, Health

by Ernie McCray

Wow, what a trip this coronavirus thing has been. I mean one moment you’re going about your day, maybe checking out a movie or two, dining with friends, getting a round of golf in…

Then the next day you’re living under a mandate where you’re to cover your mouth and stay in your house and if you do go out into the streets don’t come near to anybody.

It’s like you’re in a dark tunnel wondering if you’ll ever see the light of day again.

There’s something déjà vu about it for me as I’ve had feelings like I’m feeling now before. Nothing, of course, on the level of dealing with a pandemic disease, but an experience, never-the-less, of having my life changed, seemingly out of the blue. In a moment in time when my life was hunky-dory fine.

I had an amazing life at home with a beautiful wife and three wonderful creative kids. I made a living making learning fun for a school full of kids. And I was thinking of keeping on doing what I was doing for at least five or six more years.

But those plans came to a crashing end one day. Beginning with the day a new school superintendent arrived on the scene much like the coronavirus, making people, immediately, extremely uncomfortable and wary. He was the kind of person who made you want to grab a baseball bat, like we’re now reaching for masks for protection.

I was freaked out from the get-go because the dude came to us from a former job where he was dubbed the “Border Czar,” the U.S. Attorney in charge of the line dividing the U.S. and Mexico. And I couldn’t imagine how one could go from a job that squelches hopes and dreams to a position that’s all about inspiring such.

But silly me, I reached out to the man, writing him a little friendly note, based on the word out on the streets, suggesting that he might want to consider meeting with leaders from the Latino community to address their concerns about how he treated brown folks in his previous job.

He never addressed the issue with me. And it was at that point that I began feeling like I had stepped across the threshold of a dark tunnel.

Then at a community meeting, a number of Chicano activists, friends of mine, questioned him about the blood he had on his hands through his border policies – and he literally folded his arms and turned his back to them and said: “I don’t respect you and I’m proud of the work I did on the border.” And I backed up a few more paces into the tunnel.

He introduced himself to us principals with “Here’s how it’s going to be!” And there was to be: “No excuses and no exceptions!” to district decrees. Oh, the tunnel started darkening rapidly.

At meetings meaningful back and forth discussions became non-existent and questions were rarely answered, frowned upon. And in the darkness of the tunnel I was tightening my fists and biting my tongue.

Respected leaders of color were dismissed at board meetings like cockroaches who had crashed his tea party. And the light at the end of the tunnel was dimming even more significantly.

Someone was always looking over your back and then asking you what you were doing and when you told them what you were doing, proudly, because you were doing great things in your classrooms – their response was that what you were doing wasn’t worth the time, that you, basically, didn’t know what you were doing. So now you’re stewing because there’s nowhere you can plead your case or keep doing what you were doing.

Your life seems in ruin.

When my summer vacation came I felt as though I had escaped a war zone. Colleagues of mine had lost their jobs and some of them were among some of the finest educators I’ve ever known. The local paper missed what was really going on as it editorialized about a new era of “accountability” and the need to change a culture of “complacency.”

That was all excruciatingly painful for me.

Usually on my last day of school I sit in my car a few moments before driving home and look back on the past year and form a few ideas as to what I want to do the next year.

But before my rear end plopped in my driver’s seat I heard a booming voice scream to the heavens: “Enough is enough! I’m out of here! I don’t want to have to gangsta slap one of these sorry ass mofos!” To my surprise the voice I heard was mine and, in the spur-of-the-moment, in a heartbeat, I was done at age sixty-one: a retiree.

Like with the coronavirus, I never saw any of what had happened that year coming.

But, in this situation, I went from a tunnel with very little light in sight to the brightness of a new day, free to do as I please.

I’ve enjoyed it to a “T,” having no idea how great my life could really be.

And I don’t think we human beings realize how great our world can be, how, after we emerge from what we’ve been experiencing, the light at the end of the dark tunnel of our uncertainty and despair might lead us to a more positive and refreshing existence for ourselves.

We can be the change we wish to see.

And, the truth is, we weren’t a pretty sight before this superbug scourge visited us and, since there are only so many dark tunnels a society can stand – we must be the change we wish to see.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank Lucero April 11, 2020 at 12:29 am

Mahalo Ernie for an appropriate analogy between COVID-10 and the border czar SDUSD superintendent and his thug from NYC. I still remember being at the Brucker auditorium and a standing room only crowd. My one memory was you standing and in your booming voice asking the Board Trustees and admin, “Where’s the love?”


Dr. J April 14, 2020 at 11:23 am

Great job always informing to hear from you. May God richly bless you and family.

Dr. J


Thomas Gayton April 15, 2020 at 9:03 pm

i hope and pray we can find the light of a new day and survive the Trump Virus


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