This morning I went to the local elementary school to provide my weekly reading support and enrichment lesson. At the end of the lesson, the teacher informed me about a music program the class would be presenting that afternoon, and said, “I know this is really last minute notice, but I think the kids would love it if you were able to attend.” Um, er, well…. yeah, this *is* really last minute, and I actually do have other things I was kind of hoping to do today…But I stuffed down my mild irritation, and instead smiled, politely thanked the teacher for the invitation, and said I would see if I’d be able to make it. Very vague, very ambiguous, very non-committal. The teacher then said, “Many of the parents will be there, which is great! But some parents can’t come; and a few of the kids are pretty disappointed… and I know they would love seeing you in the audience.” Oh holy hell….guilt trip galore. (Note: A guilt trip truly was not the intent of this teacher; she was just stating the facts, and wanting me to truly understand what my presence would likely mean to some of the kids.) I smiled again, and said I would do my best.
So this is how I found myself in an elementary school cafeteria-turned-auditorium mid-afternoon. I stood in the back row of the audience, and as the kids filed in to fill the risers, one of them gasped when she saw me – and then she beamed. A few other kids quickly noticed, and then either giggled, or waved, or smiled broadly. Most of the children’s parents were in the audience, and so most of the kids were busy performing for their mom or dad; but a few kids had their eyes fixed on me for much of the program.
At the end of the presentation (20 minutes in all), the kids filed back to their classroom, where their parents could then sign them out and take them home for the day. I went to the classroom as well, and just walked around, trying to give some one-on-one attention to the kids who didn’t have parents in the room, as well as the “really good” kids (who often get overlooked because they are so self-sufficient and so well-behaved). The first parent-less kid who saw me came up to me, smiled, and excitedly said, “I knew you’d come!” Oh, honey… Another kid who I work with each week on his reading proudly told me about the special part he had in one of the songs; and it was wonderful to be able to sincerely praise him for excellence instead of coaching him to improve. (No matter how gentle and kind coaching is, kids still know the coaching is because they aren’t doing as well as their peers.) A third parent-less child (who is just desperate for attention) was delighted when I make a special stop by his desk, kneeled down to his level, and described how I saw him perform on one of the instruments in the program. As our exchange came to a close, he looked at me with wide eyes and quietly asked, “Can I have a hug?” Oh, sweetie… melt my freakin’ heart.
I was at the school this afternoon for 45 minutes. “All” I did was stand around, and talk to a few kids. It doesn’t look like much on paper. But it sure as heck meant a lot to several people today. I know it meant a lot to me.