Normally, I don’t get emotional at work but today was an exception. I do hear sad news, sometimes heartbreaking, news daily. Today was really no different except that what moved me, what made me emotional, was actually something so happy.
You see, I work with one amazing woman who deeply cares and does all she can for her English-learning students. So, this love and enthusiasm has spread to me and whenever I can, I try to do my tiny part and take in used clothes and shoes for these students to take home. She basically has one corner of her classroom as a mini-Goodwill, with shirts, pants, and sometimes shoes too.
Last week, I took in my children’s used shoes and clothes and within no time, they were all gone. I saw a young African boy proudly wearing his ‘new’ black North Face fleece all zipped up sitting in his classroom. (My son smiled when I told him about this yesterday). Then today, I really was moved.
While picking up students in the cafeteria, I saw a new African refugee student, who happens to share my daughter’s name, waiting in the lunch line. She must be at least 9, and there she was wearing my 7-year old’s too-small purple shirt. The shirt that my 1st grader had outgrown was now being worn by a 4th grader. The long-sleeves were not so long, and I began tearing up when she sweetly (and always sweetly) smiled at me.
When I looked again, I then noticed her shoes. They were my son’s old, black Nike basketball shoes. He had outgrown those too, and he’s in third grade. And, there she was, smiling widely, having gone through who-knows-what to get here, to America. And she is just happy as can be, wearing clothes and shoes that don’t fit.
Reality check. I took my deep breathes to keep from crying.
Why did this move me so much? It’s not sad; she wasn’t sad. In fact, she is showing the world how happy she is. She is proud, just like the other African boy I saw today wearing a girl’s pink coat. Like the other new boy who wears worn girl’s pink tennis shoes. Like her little bother wearing his ‘new’ fleece zipped up tight inside.
And, I think that’s why it moved me. Because that’s gratitude. It’s simply inspiring. It is reminder of what we can and cannot live without. We are so very fortunate in this country. It’s a reminder that every day we have the opportunity to help others. (I have 2 friends that routinely help me out and start this chain of clothing kindness by passing down cute girl’s clothing to my Anna. Thank you, Jennifer and Chantelle! Another friend went out of her way to sort and deliver boy’s clothing and shoes to my school today to also help these children. Thanks, Libby!) It’s a reminder that living here in America and having a safe school is simply something to be happy about. (Thank you, God.)