In my heart, I am a writer. It's all I've ever wanted to be, and it's who I am deep down inside. I would continue to write books even if no one ever read them. There were at least a few people anxiously awaiting my second book and it made me smile every time they inquired as to when it would be done.
When I'm not wearing my writer's hat, I'm a Network Specialist for a large school corporation. It can be chaotic and frustrating at times, but I seem to have a knack for computers, so it's fulfilling (most days!). No one goes into the technology field expecting things to work ... and if they do, they're in for a rude awakening! Very rarely are updates flawless, and many times "upgrades" cause more problems than their deployment was intended to fix. But, I work with some pretty good people who will pitch in and help anyone who sends out an SOS.
I have been helping out at one of the high schools for a while now, and I've come to know the teachers, staff, and students very well. I wasn't hired to be a school tech, and they need me back "downtown", so I'll be saying farewell to my school family tomorrow ... and I'm really going to miss them.
A few of the students are spoiled, disrespectful, and smart-aleks, but most are kind and polite, and I enjoy them. I like watching them laugh and cut up with each other. I like walking into a classroom and seeing them paying attention and working hard. When I watch the kids walk down the halls or come into my office with a problem, I'm aware that despite whatever mask they have on, their life at home could be a living hell. Statistically speaking, a certain percentage of those kids have been or are being molested. Some are beaten. Some are abused emotionally. Some are neglected. Some are taking care of siblings and drug-addicted or drunken parents ... and some really have no one to count on.
When they come to see me, I try to be as nice as possible. I treat the kids like I want people to treat my children. There is one young man who is one of those people who could sell ice to an Eskimo! He's always happy and smiling and gregarious. He's such a neat kid, and I know that his charisma and intellect combined will take him wherever he wants to go. I picture him ten years from now with a pretty wife and a couple of adorable kids that are just as charming and silly as their father.
There is another student that has worked her way into my heart. She's a good student and all of the teachers love her. A young lady who is as sweet as she is pretty. I don't know all the situations she's had to deal with, but what few I do know of break my heart. Even so, she's always smiling, always sweet, always studious and obedient. Last year her family situation deteriorated to the point that she was put in foster care. Her father lives out of state, and I expected she would go live with him after school ended last May. All summer long I wished I had taken a few minutes to pull her aside and tell her what an amazing young woman she is, and that she has the drive and intelligence and determination to become whatever she wants to be. She's stronger than a lot of adults, and that her childhood does not determine who she is ... she does. And most of all, that I'm proud of her spirit, and to keep working towards the life she wants, because she's got what it takes to succeed. Children don't pick their parents, and it's never a child's fault when their parents make bad choices. A child can't make a parent misbehave any more than they can make them behave properly. I don't know if she's harboring any guilt about her parents choices or not, but she likely is. Kids always blame themselves for their parents failures.
But, I never got the chance to tell her any of that before school ended. More accurately, I never took the time to seek her out and tell her. Shame on me.
I was surprised when I saw her back at school this year, and when I found out I'd be leaving the school, I determined to find the time to talk to her and let her know I was proud of her and in awe of her strength. I found that opportunity today. She was sitting in the office, waiting for something, and I sat down beside her and told her what an amazing young woman she is. It was a short talk, and I walked away wishing I could have said something more profound.
When school ended, she came in and gave me a hug, and handed me a letter ... and it brought me to tears. I know there are good and bad foster families. The best ones make the kids feel loved and part of the family. The good ones take care of the kids, provide for them and keep them safe. And who hasn't heard horror stories of the bad ones? She seems to be taken care of, but I don't think she feels loved there. Every child deserves to be loved and to know that there are adults who care about them. Every child needs to know there is someone they can turn to if they need help ... and I wanted her to know that I care and that if she ever needs an adult to talk to, or finds herself in a dangerous situation that I will be there for her. I hope she never finds herself in a situation where she's afraid or needs rescued, but if that ever does happen, I hope she thinks of me ... I hope she knows my offer was sincere. She may not realize it, but all of her teachers think the world of her and would really do most anything for her.
I plan on staying in touch with her, and in ten years, I expect her to be highly successful and happy. My hope is that she meets a man who protects her and gives her the security denied to her for so long ... and I know she'll be a wonderful mother, giving her children all the love and attention and encouragement she never got. I wish for her the fairy-tale life she dreams of.
And I'm going to keep her letter. It makes me feel good to know I made a small difference in a child's life. I may have lifted her heart today, but she has lifted mine infinitely more.