Casey was a tough ranch kid. Little blond-haired kid who played basketball for me for three years. Intense, great defense, pretty good passer, fair shot. I noticed after each game, he’d grab two bags of ice and hold them against his knees. After each game and generally for the next day, he’d hobble like he was an old man with a terrible case of arthritis.
It wasn’t until after we had won the state tournament and after I had announced I was leaving to coach at the university level that I found out that Casey was born with split kneecaps. They never healed or grew properly. I’m not a doctor. I don’t know much physiology if any. I don’t even know how it’s possible to have split kneecaps. But that’s what he told me. I asked him how he was able to walk, much less play basketball. He shrugged, smiled and said, “’Cause I like it.”
Melanie was a quiet young lady. Honors student. Top five in her class. She seemed reserved, almost shy. Her eyes were bright and she had a ready and willing smile. As a senior, she had to write an essay for a scholarship about overcoming an obstacle. She wrote about not knowing if there would be a meal to eat for herself or for her younger sister. Her parents were out of work. There were times that the only meal she and her sister ate was school breakfast and lunch. Don’t know what she did over the holidays or over the summer for food to eat. The electricity was turned off until the bill was paid, sometimes for long stretches. She wrote about running home after school to take advantage of daylight to do her homework, often finishing by candlelight or by flashlight. She wrote about having to wear long sleeves and pants to bed and having to put rubber bands on her cuffs and sleeves to keep cockroaches out of her clothes.
I gave a certificate of completion to one of our students yesterday in a simple ceremony with friends, relatives and staff members. Trey is a special needs student who has been with us for five years, almost six. He is gregarious. Loves to laugh, loves to hug, and loves to tease. We’ve become buddies these past five years. He has difficulty in speaking, but will draw a picture to communicate with us. He loves to see an A+ on his paper or a 100% on his projects and will declare, “I can do it better!” And he does. Always. Never quitting until he succeeds in what he determines is his mission.
I’ve Learned From Children. From Kids.
I’ve learned from them since I’ve been in education . . . or at least, since I’ve taken the time to notice.
Their struggles. Their accomplishments. Their seeming failures, only to get up and try again.
Their innocence. Their joy in discovery. Their sense of wonder.
Casey taught me never to give up. Never to settle for anything other than one’s best. He taught me to never complain. To smile myself through it. As I write this, I find myself smiling even now.
Melanie taught me perseverance. Never to make excuses. To rise above with grace and dignity. Taught me that when the pennies are few, there are those among us who have even less.
Trey taught me that one doesn’t have to be brilliant to be bright. One doesn’t have to be gifted to be great. Taught me that there can be pleasure in almost anything.
What We Learn From Children is that often, there is beauty in simplicity. In wonder. In perseverance. In sucking it up and smiling through it. We can Learn much From Children. And, we can teach them too! Something to think about . . .
Live Life, and Make A Difference!