Keep On Giving

Keep On Giving!

She had no friends since she was smelly, dirty and didn’t share. Her mother disappeared when she was a toddler. Alone at her desk, she often sat with her head down and I would ask her softly to sit up straight. Everyone avoided sitting near her since she never bathed, and often wore the same stained dress. Her unwashed oily blond hair had strands stuck together and her large blue eyes would flash with excitement when I asked her to come up to my desk and work. Her homework was usually missing and she was often absent.

Our school psychologist and I talked about strategies to help Ellen. Our nurse had clothing donated from the local community, and she often chose slacks, underwear, and tops for her. Daily she’d bring Ellen to the nurse’s bathroom and let her wash and change.

Eventually, her apartment was investigated. It was not too dirty, and there was food in the refrigerator. Strewn on the kitchen table were car parts, bolts, screws, hoses and rusty old engine pieces. There were no signs of physical or emotional abuse. Ellen continued to come to school and sit alone with her eyes facing the floor.

One of eleven children, I met Alex in a second grade classroom. He was ten. Long, cropped, curly black hair was often disheveled when he’d lay his head on his hands while trying to write. His family moved frequently. He lived with his mother and eleven siblings in a converted alley garage.

The nurse had given him a donated warm coat when it was too bitter for him to come to school. He watched his three younger siblings until his mother came back from a meager job. They had food, and the garage had clean beds, light and warmth. Alex visited his brother and nephews in another city and enjoyed getting out of town and getting special attention from them.

It was Christmas. I talked to my own children about how blessed we were.
My youngest son had a toy called a “Transformer” that changed from a car to a robot. He thought that he’d like to come into school and give it to Alex.

Unable to visit my school, I put the toy in a bag and I told his teacher that Alex would be bringing this bag back from my room.
I placed the bag next to his reading material.
“What’s this bag?”
“Open the bag! My son wanted you to have what’ s inside.”
Alex timidly peeked inside. His eyes widened.
“Wow, I wanted one of these! Thank your son for me.”
He didn’t get much reading done, but he did write a note to my son, thanking him. He read it after we checked his writing, grammar and spelling. It was a rewarding lesson.

I was very pleased that my son wanted to make someone else happy. It was time for me to consider retiring and the thought of leaving my “children” at school was almost unbearable. My biological children were in college and my youngest children were in high school. I really loved the children in my reading classes.

The Board of Education offered sixty-two teachers an early retirement. Should I take the chance now? What would happen to Ellen and Alex?
I guess the decision was made for me. Alex moved away to his brother’s home. His brother’s wife was having a baby. Ellen and her sister moved to Florida with her Dad .

Don’t stop giving. There are many like Ellen and Alex out there who need us!

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