Today the girls stepped in the classroom, twirling in fancy dresses. The boys showed off their stiff, spiky, gelled haircuts. It was Picture Day and, Little One, I have to admit I was surprised when you showed up with your thick, black hair cut short. Your hair was so long and gorgeous. Your new haircut frames your face and your deep, brown eyes stand out even more than before.
During Morning News, I commented that your haircut looked great and, Little One, your response stole my heart. You looked at me, with eyes so pure, so earnest, and said,
“I gave my hair away.”
I felt my jaw drop as the words sunk in.
“I gave my hair away.”
This baffled the other kids sitting on the rug with you. Their questions came rapid-fire.
“You gave your hair away?”
“Who did you give it to?”
“Why did you give it away?”
“What do you mean you gave your hair away???”
I motioned you to the front of the rug to explain. With a grin that stretched across your entire face you told how your mom braided your hair after school yesterday and then a hairdresser cut it off. You gave your thick, shiny braid to the hairdresser.
As you spoke, the class stared at you, 25 sets of eyebrows wrinkled in confusion. You continued, explaining that your braid of hair would now be made into a wig for a sick child who didn’t have any hair.
I hugged you tight and told you that you’d given a beautiful gift. One of your friends summed it up even better when she said, “I think that was the best gift you ever could give.”
She’s right, Little One. I know you loved your long hair, but you love helping others even more. That is your gift to the world. You give, even when giving requires sacrifice.
Every time I see your pixie cut, I’ll remember the day you gave away your beautiful braid. I’ll remember the day you taught me what it means to really give.
the little one who brought me a bag of nectarines, freshly picked from the tree in her yard that morning. She always brings me flowers or fruit, offerings from her yard. It touches me to know that she thinks of me when she’s at home.
watching The Sound of Music in the park. I’ve seen it, oh, probably 100 times. I met a friend there and this was her first viewing. I was so glad to watch it with her.
my little one who saw me across the playground before school and ran full speed, arms and legs flailing, just to say hi and get a hug. What a great way to start the day.
watching my little ones sand and hammer pencil boxes together as part of a Home Depot project. They were so proud of their work.
driving with Terry in the MINI with the top down
the movie Stranger than Fiction. Some movies just get better with each viewing and this is one of them.
playing Parcheesi with Terry. Strike that, we have the knock-off version. I’m thankful for playing Pachisi with Terry.
my friend and former parent, Mandy, who volunteers her time in my class to help my twins with special needs. She is just the kind of person they need right now and I’m touched that she would devote her time to these sweet boys of mine.
2 of my other former parents who sought me out specifically to see if I needed any help in class. The answer is a big resounding YES! I’m thankful for you, Kim and Melody!
my former student teacher who stopped by to see me at lunch today. I’m just so proud of her!
cozying up under the covers and watching a lightning storm out my bedroom window
reading Thundercake by Patricia Polacco to my class the next day
the great parent volunteers working in my classroom
writing in bed early Saturday morning
the parents of a former student who called down the hallway “How’s our favorite teacher doing?” It was the tail end of a long day and hearing that made me smile.
Jaison, a server at Olive Garden, who made the Never Ending Pasta Bowl true to the name. I had dinner, lunch and dinner again. Plus when I asked if I could box up the teensy bit of leftover salad, he boxed it up and added more salad and garnish. Best service I’ve had in a long time at any restaurant. He really loves his job and it showed.
walking by the river just in time to see the sunset
my work-out buddy
lifting weights until I’m sure my arms are going to fall off
these beautiful flowers picked from a student’s backyard
Today, in the sweltering heat of bus duty, I had one of the best moments of my teaching career. As I stood corralling kids in the bus line and stopping kindergarteners from throwing their backpacks at each other, a young woman tapped me on the shoulder. I turned as she said, “Mrs. McCauley, do you remember me? I used to be in your first grade class.”
Of course I remembered her. I knew her the second she said my name. I knew her eyes. I knew her voice, quiet and strong. I knew the tip of her shy smile.
I often dream of former students, children who lived nightmarish lives and found refuge at school, safe in our classroom. I dream of little ones who lived with monsters, horrid monsters who were careful to never leave a thread of evidence for me to report, but leave me still with a sick pit in my stomach. I dream of little ones who one day just up and moved, never to be seen again. They visit me in the sacred space of night, these lost children.
My lost children.
As I stood by the bus area, looking at this beautiful young woman, I hugged her, probably too tightly, and peppered her with questions. How are you? What are you doing now? Are you going to school? Are you working?
She is the same sweet six-year-old I taught eleven years ago. She’s the darling girl who I hugged hundreds of times, her head resting on my shoulder as her little hands gripped my neck. She is the same girl who fell in love with reading. She’s the same girl who used to light up the room with her giggle.
She told me about her life and how, at the age of 17, she has removed herself from her monster. She tutors her peers. She’ll graduate this year. She’s college bound.
She is the woman I always knew she could be.
She’s the little girl who filled my heart so many years ago and she is the young woman who made it overflow today.
Tonight when my lost children tiptoe into my sleep, I will think of her. She’s given me renewed hope that my other lost children have grown into strong and courageous adults.
And in the solitude of night I will fall asleep hoping that maybe, just maybe, they too will someday return to me.
skirts because it’s just too blasted hot for pants
the little boy who wrote this for our August weather summary. “Mostly sunny. I like Mrs. McCauley. She is nice. I like school.” Yep, that about sums up the weather, both inside and outside of the classroom
my little one who brought an encyclopedia bookmarked to the page on Nudibranchs for N day. Who knew sea slugs could be so beautiful. I heart word nerds.
the fact that I have 364 more days until SweatFest Back to School Night comes around again
my parent volunteers, especially the ones who don’t even have kids in my class anymore and still come and help
We’re a rag-tag group of people vigilantly pursuing self-sustaining educational & employment opportunities with and for students and their families living in rural communities in developing countries. We believe in asking hard questions like, “What do you need and how can we help?” We believe that communities know their needs better than we do and that it’s our job to listen. We’re big on being kind for the sake of kindness and we believe that even the smallest acts of kindness can make a big difference. We believe in keeping vigil over one another and watching for opportunities to help, no matter how far off the beaten path those opportunities take us. We’re vigilant in our belief that God has given each person unique gifts and that one of the highest forms of worship is using those gifts to serve others. We believe God has a purpose for each life and Vigilante Kindness is our purpose. Join us as we live out wild adventures in service of God and others. Join us in committing acts of Vigilante Kindness.