The Care Package
John sat down slowly, apologizing and referencing his bad knee. He wore a crisp, linen shirt and perfectly creased jeans. His eyes searched the ceiling as he tried recall a special memory, a memory that brought burgeoning tears to his eyes. His bifocals magnified the tears, and John smiled as he began to speak about Miss Andrews, his third grade teacher.
We were as poor as a family could be without living on the streets. I don’t think I was aware of that until I went to school. I remember seeing other kids in their clean, pressed clothes and thinking they must be loved in a way that I longed to be. My dad was too busy drinking, and my mom was too busy getting beaten by my dad to take care of me. I started to press my own clothes, but they never looked as new and clean as the clothes of the kids I admired. My teacher, Miss Andrews, used to invite me to her home after school for a snack. Somehow she recognized that I was hungry. One day as I was leaving, she handed me a package wrapped in brown paper and tied up with string. I ran all the way home and into my room to open it. I spent hours staring at the three new school shirts that had been folded inside the package, holding them and smelling them.
It still gets to me. You are supposed to love your own children, but this woman showed such love to someone else’s child. Looking back, I know she couldn’t have had much herself, and yet, she made this sacrifice for me. Somebody noticed me. Somebody cared about me.
John must have been given many gifts in the sixty-five years since, but it would be a wonder if any of them could top those new school shirts. It seems the gift was not really in the shirts themselves. The gift was in the message: You are seen. You are loved. John’s story, exemplifies the power of simple acts and the meaning children make of them. Teachers like Miss Andrews give kids like John the chance to feel the impact of care and compassion. When did a teacher show care and compassion to you? Share in the comments below.
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