There was one shy little boy who ate his lunch very slowly during the last of three lunch periods. It was obvious to me that he just did not want to go out to the playground. I suspect he was teased there. My turf was the lunchroom, not the playground, so I gave him permission, when he softly asked me, to stay in the lunchroom until the bell rang to go back to class.
One of the other moms insisted he should go outside, but I told her it was the last lunch period, so no one was waiting for the room to clear to eat lunch. He wasn't causing any difficulty. He even cleared up after himself without leaving a trace that he'd been there. "Leave him alone," I told her. For whatever reason, he needed to have this time. He smiled up at me through his thick dark eyelashes.
The last day of school, he asked me if I had a pencil. I handed him one, and saw him begin writing on a napkin while the other kids noisily headed for the outdoors, all wired up for their summer vacation to begin. He wrote and wrote, then when the bell rang, he hurried over to me, handed me my pencil, then pushed the folded up napkin into my hand, his eyes downcast, as he smiled towards the floor.
After I got in my car to go home, I unfolded the tightly creased napkin and read: I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU scrawled all over both sides of the napkin. Tears came. I'd been facing my own trauma at home, with an abusive alcoholic husband making my life, and my kids' lives, a living hell. Our priest had patted my knee, telling me: "That is the cross you must bear, my dear." I had left his office (and ultimately, the Catholic church) determined to find a fulltime job and file for divorce. I never was good at carrying a cross. I had been strongly feeling the lack of love in my life, and this shy little boy had shown me the sunshine of his heart just when I most needed to feel loved.
I still have that folded note in my jewelry box. We never know whose life we touch--and perhaps, change--with simple kindness.
Labels: school in CA