Westward Movement

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Last week, as we prepared to go on a three week winter break, I finished our read-aloud novel (Sarny, the sequel to Nightjohn ... brilliant), and read a few stories from Chicken Soup for the Kid's Soul. My students love the series, and we generally follow a story with a wonderful discussion. The story I read them on Thursday was no exception. A young woman wrote of a period during her childhood when her mom lost her job, and she and her two girls (the author was the elder of the two) were homeless. Sometimes there was a cot available, sometimes they slept on the floor of a shelter, sometimes they slept on the street. 

My students were noticeably moved. I asked them how many of them knew someone who was or had been homeless, and there ensued a conversation about being thankful for a home, for nourishment, and for the important people in our lives. 

One of my students, C, has been the topic of earlier postings. C is a very bright, underperforming student. I fight to maintain a patient attitude with him. Oftentimes, C acts out, calls out, performs in ways that bring negative attention. On occasion, C shares such a unique perspective on a topic, and we are astonished. This was no exception.

C raised his hand toward the end of our conversation about homelessness. He shared that he, his mom and sister had lived in their car for several months when he was three. His mom had lost her job, and they had been evicted. Part of his story included a tenant in an apartment building finding a bottle from which C could drink. He was so appreciative of this act, and spoke for several minutes about being homeless and how thankful he was now that his mom had a job at a car wash, and how seriously she took her responsibilities. 

The conversation moved on, and as we were getting up to prepare for dismissal, C asked us if we'd keep what he'd told us sacred. He actually used the word. He said he wasn't embarrassed, but proud. However, he'd appreciate (again, his word) it if we'd keep the knowledge to ourselves. 

Here I am sharing his story. As I'm using only first initials, I think it's okay. 

In the spirit of the holiday season, I appreciate the gifts my students give me ... among them, the willingness to be open and honest, to be vulnerable, and to ask their friends to appreciate the courage it takes to share those personal stories.

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