I outgrew cartoons a long time ago, or so I thought. Then one of my friends wanted to see Sing. No one else wanted to go, and it was her birthday, so I said, “Sure; why not?” and made up my mind to enjoy it. And I did. There was, of course, a lot of singing—done by fine voices in many interesting styles. Done by two pigs, a gorilla, a mouse, a porcupine, and an elephant. They were not exactly “people” I would have expected to have the talent, the soul.
Which led me to reflect on other life lessons. A parable about a baby more interested in the wrapping and the box than in the present inside. A C.S. Lewis image of a stable bigger on the inside than on the outside. Oh, yes, and the Girl Scout leader who taught me to knit, the one who had only one hand. The hunchbacked woman with an apartment and a heart big enough for troubled teenagers and desperate families. In fact, I can think of many people who (as I discovered when I got to know them well), are so much more than they first appeared to be.
Some of these people come to the Brunner Literacy Center. Some of them may seem to be pigs, or gorillas, or mice. They may appear to be prickly as porcupines or ungainly as elephants. Inside, most of them abound in courage, determination, humility, good humor, or the desire to make something of themselves. We who are tutors, we who sit and listen, are privileged to hear their beautiful voices.
Do you like Valentine’s Day? Some people love the idea of showering their special person with a token of love. Flowers, candy, or jewelry come to mind. But others shy away from this day. They think it is a contrived special occasion to sell cards, flowers, or decorations. They may have no one special at the moment to identify as a special love. They may be short on cash to fund what they would like to do.
I am the oldest of eleven children. Mom and Dad welcomed our friends and neighbors alike. There always seemed to be room for one or two more to join us. I was taught to say “please,” “thank you,” and “sorry” from a young age and helped pass those manners to my younger brothers and sisters. Love was a way of life each day for us. Yes, there were difficult times. All families have them. Those were the times that taught us the most about love.
As a teacher I’ve seen that children seem to like the idea of sending cards to their friends on Valentine’s Day. In schools you can often find huge celebrations for this day with the younger students. Their cards show the latest action figures, animals, or cartoon characters. Some are attached to pencils and some have candy to share with their Valentine. Once in a great while a youngster makes unique homemade cards for this special day. What excitement fills the room as they can really read their cards! Class parties have drinks and snacks as well as fun activities. Students may be sent home to their families on sugar highs which could last a week. In recent years, however, I noticed healthier snacks like fruit and veggie trays being served and eaten with just as much excitement.
In my experience, older students seemed to have a practice of making the day a great fundraising time. They sold heart-shaped suckers for a dollar and delivered them to students or adults in the school building. Getting five or six hearts made the receiver feel great. Getting only one was still a blessing if the gift came from a friend or relative. I have seen school groups checking the homeroom list to make sure all students received a Valentine heart sucker. Everyone would feel that someone cared.
When high school rolled around similar things happened in school with fundraising. For sure, lots happened outside of school to celebrate the day. My personal memories of high school Valentine’s days are long gone but I never felt left out, especially because of my family. About this time my youngest sister, the baby of the family, was eagerly learning to read and write. She would pass notes to us that said “God loves you” or “I love you.” What a different life I would have had if my parents had not encouraged all of us to continue our education.
My mom would say that we should show love to one another each day, not just on Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, or birthdays. When we didn’t get along with someone, her advice was to pray for them and do something nice for them without them knowing what you were doing. We often heard “Kill them with kindness” in our home. This worked to build peaceful hearts.
As you read this blog, think kindly of the many people who helped you reach your educational goals. I hope that you are showered with kindness not just on one or two special days, but all year round.