Eye See You
"Vision is the wisdom of seeing what is invisible to others..."
I walked into a wild third-grade classroom. Music was playing loudly, children were under tables applying make-up, kids were throwing a football indoors and students were dancing wherever they could find space. I was a mid-year replacement. The previous teacher said he could no longer manage these children and resigned without notice during the holiday break.
As soon as I walked in the room, I realized why he left. These kids needed help; lots of it.
I sat down quietly in my chair and began reading their names softly. After each name, I prayed, asking God to help me understand that child.
I then nailed a mirror to the wall next to the chalkboard and began writing my name and a reading assignment on the board.
I then asked each child to come to me, tell me their name and what they wanted to learn. It was a difficult task, because only two children there wanted to learn anything! Rules were set, boundaries established, parents contacted. But the mirror saved the day -- no, the year!
Unbeknownst to the children, the mirror allowed me to see their every move while I was writing on the board. They soon became puzzled as to how I knew who was misbehaving while I was writing on the board. When one student finally asked me, I told him I had a special teacherís eye in the back of my head that my hair covered.
At first they did not believe me. But they did begin to exhibit better behavior, especially while I wrote on the board, thinking I had magical vision. I never told them different. Why mess up a good thing?
[The mirror was a stroke of genius. The prayer was a stroke of wisdom.]
Malinda Dunlap Fillingim
From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teacher Tales
A Walkabout in Wisconsin
"It's easier to make a buck than to make a difference..."
While most of my colleagues interned their sophomore year at prestigious investment banks, I drove halfway across the country in my sputtering Toyota that summer to work with a Boys & Girls Club on Lac Courte Oreilles Indian Reservation in Wisconsin.
Aside from praying that my car would not fall apart, I became more excited with every mile, as I anticipated this new opportunity to live and learn from the Ojibwa tribe.
Princeton offered a special opportunity for students to improve our society through summer internships, and I jumped on the chance to do something that I might never have an option to do again.
Upon pulling into the driveway of the club, I realized that my challenge for the summer was not only building a cultural bridge between the staff at the Boys & Girls Club and the tribe members, but also tackling the crumbling state of both the program and the building.
I spent my first hour on the job digging up some old clothes, leftover cans of paint, and plenty of sheets. The listless group of ten-year-olds slumped on the front steps of the club didn't know what overcame them until they were outfitted in oversized rags and armed with paintbrushes.
We were going to battle! The adversary was the color gray! A few paint cans later, I stopped to scan the tangled battleground. The faces of my soldiers were camouflaged with speckles of blue, red, green and orange, cheeks ruddy from laughing and their eyes held an eager sense of pride and accomplishment.
In just a few hours, a myriad of colors permeated the building and the walls were decorated with a hodgepodge of little handprints. From that day on, they understood that this club was no longer just a building where parents dumped children off for the free supervision and food, but rather a place they could call their own.
Throughout the summer, we continued our crusade to renovate "our place" with boundless ideas, despite our limited supplies. The children became empowered as they observed their ideas turning the club into a vibrant, thriving place.
It became their battle, and they won. But there were many more battles to come. One night, I decided to host a camping night.
I had visions of a few campers and me roasting marshmallows and telling ghost stories. The night before the big event, I only had three children signed up. While not really a success, it was a start.
However, the night of the sleepover, word got out on the reservation about a free camping night (i.e. free babysitting) and children were dropped off in droves. One hundred children were dropped off with just two adults to supervise, and I almost had a heart attack.
To add to the madness, a surprise furry visitor smelled all of the food and decided to stop by for a snack. All I saw when the lumbering beast approached the crowd of children was the next morning's possible headlines, "Grizzly Bear Eats Native American Children and Jersey Girl."
A call to the local ranger was made, and I decided this scene was better than the movie I had planned to show. Somehow, all of the children and the two adults made it through the night with only a few scrapes on knees and permanent thrill memories to reflect on.
Although every day I was met with frustrations and unanticipated disappointments, I went to bed every night knowing that I had learned more from this tribe about life than I had in my classes.
Before long, the summer was over and I packed up my Toyota with treasures created by the children and my heart stuffed with memories that I would carry with me for a lifetime.
You have your whole life to work in a suit and sit behind a desk, but in college you are given the rare gift of time ó time to explore who you are through unusual opportunities that only the freedom of college allows.
I have had a few "desk jobs" since graduating, yet the most memorable job I have ever had was my internship with the Ojibwa people at the Boys & Girls Club.
Michelle Dette Gannon
From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Campus Chronicles
A Matter of Time
"Each person is unique and special. If we miss that, we miss out on a lot of the richness life has to offer..."
Our four children appeared over a six-year span. No wonder their parents found themselves happily crazed with the hullabaloo a house full of little ones entailed. Yet those same parents never gave thought to the possibility their children would depart at the identical mach-speed in which they'd arrived.
College applications, scholarship forms, senior years, baccalaureate services, graduation ceremonies, bag-packings, and leave-takings crowded both the calendar and our emotions. Each of our children -- with unique personalities, plans, and dreams -- vied for our time and attention.
But the one who concerned us the most was Katrina.
Second in seniority, our dominantly right-brained daughter was sweet, bright, and intuitive. She was focused. She was creative. She was artistic. In fact, her talent for painting and drawing evidenced itself at an early age and she shared it generously. Home, church, school, family, friends... extra-curricular activities. Katrina found many opportunities to tap into her flair for the imaginative. We delighted in her developing skills and successes.
What Katrina wasn't, however, was punctual.
Time -- or rather being on time -- didn't matter a whit to this more global-thinking girl of ours. And it affected the entire family. In fact, we all chanted the same refrain: "Katrina, you're making us late!"
No matter what the family outing, or its rank of importance, Katrina kept us from arriving in a timely manner. Especially Sunday morning church services.
"I'm going to warm up the car," her dad would holler up the stairs.
"We're getting our coats on," her brothers and sister advised.
"It's 8:55, past time to leave," I announced, the toe of my shoe tapping an impatient tattoo on the entryway tile.
With her long wet tresses saronged in a towel, Katrina appeared at the top of the stairs. Fresh from the shower. Wrapped in her bathrobe.
"What's the rush?" she asked. "Church doesn't start for five more minutes."
We groaned in dismay and as parents, we certainly wondered how Katrina would cope at college where she would have to rely on her alarm clock and the good graces of her roommates. When we waved goodbye to the forlorn figure silhouetted against the bleak college skyline, my breath caught in consternation.
Even so, those of us left at home heaved a collective and not so imperceptible sigh of relief. No longer must we all traipse to the front for the only pew seats available. Nor would we be shushed by a concert usher as we stumbled to our dark seats during the second cantata. Or slip into a wedding reception just in time to catch the garter. From now on, we would always be on time, we vowed to each other.
As it turned out, dorm living wasn't a simple or easy adjustment for Katrina. Homesick and learning to live with girls of different backgrounds, our teary daughter called one Sunday morning, a mere two weeks into the semester.
I listened, soothed and counseled as she hiccupped her fears and sniffled her concerns into the phone. But the rest of the family wasn't as empathetic.
"I can't believe it," her dad shook his head woefully and heaved a huge sigh. "She's a thousand miles from home," he pointed to the kitchen clock, "and still making us late to church!" But I wouldn't have her any other way.
Carol McAdoo Rehme
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Empty Nesters
Our New Home
"Home is where the heart is..."
Iíve lost my home. The home I bought, cherished and loved. It now stands vacant. The bare picture windows stare out like hollow eyes. A bank owned sign sticks crudely in the overgrown, yellow lawn. The flowers I planted and watered religiously, wilted and are hanging low as if weeping.
Indentations in the carpet reveal the outline of furniture, of a life, of a family no longer there. Putty and paint cover the holes in the walls where pictures once hung.
Even though the house is empty, images flood my mind of a time when it was filled with life. On the driveway, we showed our son how to ride a bike. In this house, both kids started school, learned to read and write. We taught our son to tie his shoes, and for several horrific months went through potty-training our daughter.
Since it was our first home, we set right out to decorate and make it our own. My arm still aches from painting my sonís bedroom walls a bright blue that needed three coats before it stopped appearing streaky. I remember the plans to paint my daughterís room pastel pink; Plans that never came to fruition.
Many injuries and bruises accumulated over the years. Thereís the time my daughter tried to climb on top of her dresser and it fell over on her; fortunately, she wasnít badly hurt. Then there was the time my son fell off his bike and scraped his knee. My mind is full of memories such as these.
I remember the excitement about having a master bedroom with our own bathroom and walk-in closet. Many fond memories are associated with the room I shared with my husband. The room we talked in, embraced in, laughed in and loved in.
Iíll never forget the time we found a lizard slithering through our hallway. I screamed and jumped up on a chair. My husband caught it and it became the family pet. I wonder now where Ben Casey went after we let him loose in the backyard. Iím sure he misses the excitement and noise back there since now there is only silence.
My heart hurts as we drive away from the house, leaving it in the dust like nothing more than a distant memory.
Behind me my kidsí chatter fills the back seat. My husband at my side threads his fingers through mine as we begin our new life in an apartment. Itís then that I realize the memories I have are of our family. The memories are memories of loved ones and family moments. We still have our home; we are just moving it out of a house and into an apartment. My family is my home.
Bank Owned by Amber Garza
From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tough Times, Tough People
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