(* I have a solemn rule for myself not to write about work on this blog, but today I really need to get it out)
Tis the Season to be jolly…but after the day I had at work today, it was impossible for me to live up to that. In fact, today was one of the very few times that I left work and cried. In 17 years, I can only recall that happening twice…today was number three. The fact that I was able to hold it in until I got in the car was basically a Christmas miracle in itself, believe me.
Being a teacher, I’ve heard my share of sad stories from my students over the years. They all bother me on some level, but at Christmas time when everyone should be filled with some kind of joy, the stories really break my heart. Every story started the same way over the last two days…with each student asking me what I was doing for Christmas. After I told them, I dreaded having to ask the question on my end because I never quite know what kind of answer I’m going to get. With each time I asked, I hesitated more and more because I had a feeling I was going to hate what I was about to hear.
Teenagers are interesting creatures. Most of the time, when you ask them a simple question, they don’t want to talk…but catch them when they NEED to talk and they will unload on you if they feel comfortable enough doing so. Apparently the holidays are a time when they need to unload more than ever.
Without going too deeply into exactly what was said, I will give you the basics: Too many of my students wil have no Christmas in their homes whatsoever this year. Some are losing their homes to foreclosure. Some live in homes with no heat, phone, tv, electricity, or food. Without the basic neccessities, Christmas is out of the question obviously. Some live in hotels, can only get food from Food Banks, have only one person, or in some cases, no-one to call a “parent”. Some have to be the parent that the “adult” in their house can’t be for the sake of their siblings.
Yet these are the same kids that come into my classroom with smiles on their faces, eager to learn everyday. I asked one student today how he can be so smiley everyday, and his answer was “This is the one place I can get away from my life for a few hours, and have a reason to smile.” What do you say to a comment like that? I struggled for words and struggled even harder not to cry. I knew he had it hard, but in the 35 minutes that he sat and spoke so honestly with me, I struggled to understand his life and find something to say that would make it okay for him. In the end, he even thanked me for listening because that’s all he wanted…not pity…just an ear.
All the way home, and for the few hours I’ve been sitting here I can’t stop thinking about him or the others who have these sad circumstances. I cannot imagine what it’s like for anyone, especially a kid, to have Christmas not exist…at all. These kids don’t even want Christmas gifts, they just want a day at home with no fighting and no stress. Sadly most of them can’t even get that…a simple gift that costs nothing.
Their words changed my Christmas this year. I’ve never been materialistic, but this year that feeling will be non-existent to me. All I want is to sit in my house, look at the joy around me, and feel thankful. It’s a gift my students would give anything for…and the one thing I wish I could produce for them. The simple little gesture that we tend to overlook is, in the end, the most important gift any of us can give and receive.