Everything that we do, Everything that we believe, comes from somewhere.
One year, as I was entering the third grade, my school decided that I was a good candidate for the magnet school program. A magnet school is a school that draws students outside of their community by offering alternate curricula, such as arts and specialty sciences. The magnet school that I would attend was downtown in Houston. A good 30 minute drive from where we lived. I spent almost 4 hours a day on the school bus.
Although we spent time studying the three R's, most of our days were spent studying art, violin, gymnastics, dance. I can remember more from those hours in that one year than all of my years in school. I learned to appreciate beauty and ordinary talent in a whole new way. Not only did I expand my knowledge of these fields, but I also learned the art of education. It helped me to see the beauty of the written word and even an equation.
During that time, I met one of two people that changed the course of my life, just as a butterfly flapping its wings in China sends a tidal wave around the world. Small acts of kindness that found my soul.
The school counselor saw me weekly. She talked to me, never down to me. As I look back, I realize that she had concerns that I was neglected at home. My clothes didn't fit. Rarely were they clean. I smelled of smoke. I was sick often. My parents were detached and uninvolved. I was a modern day ragamuffin.
Right before Christmas that year, she asked if I would like to go shopping. I remember as she pulled up to where I lived. She was beautiful and her car was so warm. I felt so safe. Now that I look back on it, she would have had to ask for permission, yet I never remember my parents mentioning it.
She told me that she went to Saint Matthews church on Shephard drive, right down from where I lived. I remember riding past that church at Christmas time every year, fascinated by the nativity scene, feeling a connection, although I never set foot inside. Now at this moment, I see the connection. She and Saint Matthew's had taken up a collection for me, for that Christmas. As we drove, we talked. I know we had to talk about me, but what I remember is absorbing all the words about her and her family. She was married, no kids at the time, had a cat. I remember spending the day trying on clothes, buying coats, shoes, dresses, even gifts for my parents. We spent the entire day together, going to lunch, running errands as we stopped at the dry cleaners. Along the way, we stopped at her house. It was a small house, warm and clean. Perfect. I played with her cat and wanted to move in. I never wanted to leave. It seemed as every book I had ever read. Although I went home, I don't remember any of it. The day was too perfect to think of reality. Although she knew things were bad at home, she never quite knew how bad. That day, simply being a kid with a dream, saved me.
What I remember next breaks my heart to this day... It was a few months later and my dad was to have a conference at the school. I can't remember why . I can't remember if it was urgent or just a day to see what I had accomplished. What I remember is being in the car, driving around for hours. My dad being angry because he couldn't find it. I remember as tears slid down my cheek as he shouted. He was angry because I was going to a school that he could not find. He had never, not once, walked into the school that I loved so dearly. And he never would. We never made it to the meeting and I never went back. The next day I was told to walk down to the school down the street and register.
Now, as a mom, I am at my boys school weekly, daily. I know every teacher and counselor. I know every hallway. If there is something that needs to be done, I'm there to help. Some have attempted to plant a halo firmly upon my head, but the truth is, I do what I do for purely selfish reasons. I have kids, some...such as I was, modern day ragamuffins, that call me by name. I see them smile and I know that as I smile back, one day they'll think to pay it forward. Kindness.
So, to all teachers, counselors and volunteers... There are days when you ask yourself why you do what you do. There are parents that don't care and kids you can't reach, but there are some that will look back upon you fondly. Some that have found their soul through your words and actions. Some that will grow to new heights because of you. And you may never even know it.