We’re at her condo. By the pool. She wears tropical-print and big sunglasses. I don’t know what it is about elderly women and oversized sunglasses, but they go together like ham and swiss.
“I’m an old lady,” she says. “I hope you don’t mind if I wear these while we talk.”
Not at all, ma’am.
She talks about a boy. Black hair. Freckles. Long ago, he sat by himself at recess. Which for a third-grader, is as bad as it gets.
She’d ask, “You okay, sweetie?”
He was uneasy around her. Skittish. She was a teacher. He was a foster kid.
She arranged to meet his foster parents. They were folks with big-hearts and a house full of kids rolling through the American Foster Pinball Machine.
The boy’s biological parents were drug abusers who’d neglected him. He’d lived off whatever he found in a pantry. He was malnourished and underweight.
When she heard this, it cut her.
“I knew he was my responsibility,” she says. “I just thought: ‘The best thing I can do is give him love.’”
So, she gave it by the metric ton. During class period, he sat beneath her desk. He told her small spaces made him feel safe.
“I had to get him outta that hole,” she says. “If I had one mission in life, that was it.”
For recess, she organized T-ball games. She made him shortstop. He didn’t want to play unless she played second base.
So, she bought two gloves.
When the year ended, the new one began, she visited him in his fourth-grade classroom—often.
“We were joined at the hip,” she says, laughing. “Got to the point where if I had to go tee-tee, he waited outside.”
They sent him to middle school. She quit her job as elementary teacher and applied for a job at the middle school.
By high school, he was on his own. He was on the baseball team, in band, Spanish club.
He was a genuine part of her family—as genuine as her husband and two girls.
And I’ll be honest, the story takes a nosedive into the ordinary. He lived a mostly average life. So did she.
She’s old now. She lives in a condo, and has the big sunglasses to prove it.
She has photos. They show a boy—with freckles.
“He’s an engineer,” she says. “We’re all so proud of him.”
He still visits. She has a guest room ready for him. And even though they are not blood-related, he calls her nearly every day.
“We talk about everything,” she says. “Right now, mostly about his wedding. He’s getting married in a few months.”
She has to remove her sunglasses to say it.
“I dunno,” she goes on. “When I first started teaching, used’a think I was meant to help all kids. But I think I was put here just for him.”
Laura Young - April 8, 2017 1:47 pm
And he was put there for her, too! Amazing how God works- putting people in your life so you can help them, then really blessing you just as much or more.
Marcia W MacLean - April 8, 2017 2:26 pm
That pulled my heart in every direction. Thank you.
Pat Byers - April 8, 2017 2:37 pm
I, too, believe people are put in places, without knowing their purpose. Perhaps we never know. Perhaps it is not as dramatic as the results of this teacher. Sometimes, it is merely a smile to a stranger, when they sorely needed it. Or a kind word, when it was needed. A compliment given that made all the difference in their day? We don’t always know.
Great write today, as always.
And speaking of kind words ? I LOVE your writings.
Bob McGhee - April 8, 2017 8:34 pm
Sam Hunneman - April 8, 2017 2:52 pm
Man! I could do with a whole lot more “ordinary” these days.
Jamie - April 8, 2017 3:01 pm
Thank you for writing of “the ordinary”. The ugly politics, rants, and flames can be found without looking anymore. Cal Stewart was an early recording artist in the first quarter of the last century who played the part of a “country rube” known as Uncle Josh . He said once in an interview, “When I meet Saint Peter at the pearly gates I want to be remembered by the laughs I gave to people, not the heartaches.” If only more people would live by those words….
jayson - April 8, 2017 3:29 pm
i really gotta be careful about reading these in public, teary eyes are a little embarrassing.
Tina - April 8, 2017 4:36 pm
Wow!! Just wow. I can’t get enough of these stories. What an amazing heart you have..
Roxanne Langley - April 8, 2017 6:00 pm
It only takes one. Bless her. And there is nothing ordinary about an ordinary life. But you already know that.
Bob McGhee - April 8, 2017 8:33 pm
A+ wonderful story.
The older I get the more often things I once thought were important fall to the wayside. For most of my life I was not a religious man. Oh, I believed in religion but didn’t practice it. Thought it was enough to just mention God. Using two syllables. I was more than wrong.
By the time I retired a few years ago I was a physical and mental mess. All those things and behaviors I thought were important in the past finally passed me on the highway to hell. I took the next exit, right into mental rehab. It worked. Rather, God did. On my own I came to realize that He had always been close by, saving me from myself, saving me for I didn’t know what. Even through quadruple heart bypass. Why? Good people younger than me, brighter than me, and more together than me had long passed. And I’m still here. Don’t know why. But I am truly thankful and blessed and happy that He is, too..
I have decided that maybe I am supposed to do all -and more- of the things that fellow commenter Pat Byers suggests; heartfelt smiles, kind gestures, real compliments, whatever I think might help someone else. Because I now love doing that. As I get older.
June RouLaine Phillips i - April 9, 2017 4:35 am
It’s wild how your story coincides with my day. At, the baseball game we had a new player..In a whisper it was said he is a foster child…. Really good at ball though….But, hard to handle at times. In truth he was brought to be coached by my husband. ” Someone new”. The boy shut the game down in 4 innings…Threw 17 pitches in 4 innings. Never once did he act out . When I got home we made the call to see if was this young man was in the system or in the process of being adopted…..He is getting a new set of parents… Good people, it made my night to know he is safe.
Jeannie - April 9, 2017 8:26 pm
O akay, I had to read today and yesterday’s articles in one sitting. I am now crying, hugging my dog, and trying to decide where I can find a kid that needs love. Thank you.
Lilli Ann Snow - April 11, 2017 12:33 am
I’m with Jeannie.
You always hit homers, Sean.
I guess it’s ’cause you just know how to “be…the…ball.”
Some balls just were born to fly over fences.
Phyllis - April 12, 2017 1:44 pm
We all are put here for someone.
Deanna J - June 7, 2017 1:37 pm
God always puts us where we need to be! Praise God!
Jane Hampton - June 7, 2017 7:30 pm
Amen from an old teacher with big sunglasses.
Betty - June 7, 2017 8:13 pm
I’m going to a funeral tomorrow of an angel who taught special ed children with me. When I was a tired, single mother, she introduced me to a guy who”needed to meet someone nice, for a change!” He and I will be married 29 years in October. Sweet Connie always said that God had plans for her to bring Ernie to me! I believe it! Love your words!! I am a speech pathologist, so my mind loves words and you use em well!
Becky - June 8, 2017 5:35 pm
There is no way to tell you how very parallel my life is living this sweet story right now. My heart is behind full and touched by this story. Thank you for blessing me today with your words.