Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Something happened today that made me feel that this work I do is not just a job. It is more of a blessing. It might be one of those, “you just had to be there moments,” but I feel so lucky that I AM there for so many.

I know that most grownups are capable of great kindness. But being with little kids (I teach seven and eight year olds) allows me to see a pureness of human spirit that one doesn’t often see in the adult world.

That is not to say that every single day goes great. There are plenty of days that are ordinary and a few that are hard. If I am to be honest here, many of those not-so-good-days are probably my fault. Maybe I haven’t planned well. Or maybe my plans are great but I become unwilling to do what is more important because I stubbornly stick with my plans. There are times, just like anybody, that I wake up on the wrong side of the bed or I am stressed about something totally apart from school and children. Maybe I get crabby or I take something personally.

But mostly I spend my days exactly the way they should be spent, with people I truly love. There is so much more to teaching little ones than curriculum. That is a huge amount of life sharing. We spend about 7 hours a day together for 180 days. That’s 1,260 hours, 75,600 minutes. Since I am with my students for two years that’s over 2,500 hours, over 150,000 minutes. That is a lot of time. A lot of life happens during that time besides the 3 R’s.

Today, I was waiting in the lunch line with my hot lunch kids. The kids who eat home lunch were already at our table, pretty far across the café from where I was standing. I could see a little commotion around my group, but I let the children figure out solutions for themselves when possible. They would let me know if they needed assistance. There was first grade teacher nearby if there was an emergency.

A few children came up to me and said Hannah was crying. It didn’t look like an emergency but rather an urgency that I needed to respond to. As I walked over to her it was obvious that she was in distress. She was crying. Not boo-hooing, but the steady drip, drip, drip of real sadness. I asked what was wrong and she just cried silently. Others said that she had dropped her lunch. It was one of those Lunchable things with little stacks of meat and cheese, a couple Oreo cookies, applesauce and a drink of some kind. It was all back in its container on the table but I could see nasty stuff clinging to the cheese from where it had been on the floor. It was pretty much a total loss.

“I’m sorry, honey. Let’s just go get a school lunch. “They’ll let you charge one. I know your folks won’t mind.” She just shook her head slowly. Sadly. “Don’t worry. I’ll buy you a lunch.” She put her head down. Drip, drip.

I’m not sure who started it. I think it was Simon. Soon Hannah had three or four crackers from Simon in front of her to replace the ones she lost. Garrett put his banana near the little pile of crackers. Then James placed his apple down. Sam offered Hannah some of his nacho cheese crackers from his school lunch. Alana, seeing her good friend in distress offered Hannah a squeeze yogurt in a plastic tube and Sierra rolled over an orange. No one really expected thanks, they just wanted to comfort her, to make sure she had something to eat, to stop her tears.

I don’t know how he found out, but a boy from the first grade class nearby named Timothy came over and dropped off his fruit juice.

Hannah looked up. Maybe she was a little surprised. I know she was pleased. She had a little hill in front of her of delicious food. I think she may have been a little embarrassed because she was not her usual ebullient self. Soon, Suzie King, one of our wonderful aides came up behind Hannah and said, “I heard someone dropped her lunch. I’m going to get you some chicken nuggets or a chicken sandwich.” Hannah hesitated, but Suzie gently insisted and soon Hannah came back with a bowl of nuggets with a big blob of ketchup on the side. It was a lot of food.

Sam looked at me and said, “She’s gonna have a friendly lunch. Get it? ‘Cause we’re all being friendly here in this class and she’s gonna have a big lunch. Get it? A friendly lunch.”

I got it. In the space of about two minutes, Hannah went from crying and distraught to shy to smiling. She was definitely going to have a friendly lunch. “Hey, Hannah,” I said. You’ve got a good bit of food now. Those chicken muggles look good.”

Hannah didn’t hesitate. She instantly dipped one into the ketchup in her styrofoam bowl and offered it to me. She had a sweet, grateful smile. “No thanks, Hannah".

Like I said, maybe you had to be there. But it was one of those moments I was taken by the generous, sweet spirit of this big old extended family. Not surprised exactly, but grateful.


Mamafamilias said...

"Except ye become as a little child..."

Love it.

Thanks for sharing and reminding me of the sweetness of children.

Jennifer Barnes said...

Definitely not surprised either at the generosity of those precious children in your class... That group of children is truly a gift and I am so grateful to have had them in my life for 2 years, too. I can't wait to hear all the amazing stories ahead in your future together.

Chris Hass said...

What a sincere act of kindness. You're right...that was really sweet. I couldn't help but think back to my first school in St. Louis. Because we were a private school in a really old building that was never really intended to be a school there was no "hot lunch." All the kids brought lunchboxes each day. Inevitably someone would forget every few days. There were six classes of sixteen kids in the makeshift lunchroom at a time and whichever teacher was on duty would let everyone know the situation and ask that they raise their hand if they had anything in their lunch they could share. We always had a lot of hands up offering food. However, I'm not sure it was such a variety of prime choices as what your kids shared. I seem to remember there being a lot of raisin boxes and such. Either way I'm sure it still beat a school lunch any day of the week!