I started helping at Mr. Mans school this year. I helped last year too but it was very hit and miss and the teacher always sent me to the office to staple things and sharpen pencils. I never helped in the class.
This year I started helping with a reading program for second graders. I started off by going in for an hour, one day a week. Very soon it became two or three days a week. Then I was going in everyday, five days a week. Now I'm up to five days a week with two extra hour on Wednesdays as well.
I can't begin to tell you how those little creatures have changed me. I will never be able to give them as much as they give me.
The irony of this, is that they break my heart. OK not all of them. It's just a few that break my heart.
Everyday I get told by these kids, about brothers and sisters that beat them. Parents that are in jail. Families that consist of gang bangers, drug dealers, general dead beats, and all the joys of living near a military base. Single parents, abusive parents, or no parents at all.
One of the boys came in last week with gang graffiti all over his arms. Drawn in large Sharpie marker so it wouldn't come off. When I asked about it, he smiled and told me that his older brother did it to him. The boy fell asleep on the sofa and his brother tagged him. Today that same boy told me about "getting" to go to court yesterday because both of his parents are facing drug and gang charges. He smiled and told me he missed reading class but was glad to be back today. He asked how my weekend was. Every week this boy tells me about his mom letting him watch movies like "The Saw", "Chuckie", "Halloween", and the nightmares that follow. He's 7. But every day he has the biggest smile on his face. Even when he tells me about him mother teaching him how to tag things and not get caught, he's so proud of her. You can see and hear the love he has for his family.
Yesterday a little girl came up and took my hand. She wanted me to walk with her to her next class. She says, "Mr. William, would you like to hear something sad?" Not really I told her. I don't care for sad stories. They're sad.
"It's not all sad." she tells me. Her father had to go away until next spring, but when he comes home she said they will do what ever she wants to do. That sounds like a good deal I told her. I asked if her dad was in the military or if he was shipped away.
She said,"Oh no Mr. William, Daddy went to jail. He can't stop the drugs." She smiled and gave me a big hug. Said "See you tomorrow!" and skipped away to her class.
Almost everyday I leave school fighting back tears. Today as I rode my bike home I almost crashed because I was could see straight. Tears pouring out of me.
They are all such happy little buggers. No matter what horrors they are going through at home. Everyday they greet me with a warm smiles, hugs and high fives. So pleased to see me. When I'm not there they all ask about me and want to know why I had missed school.
Today they had a substitute. When I told them that I couldn't stay because they schedule had changed, they gave a collective sigh of sadness and begged me to stay. "Why can't you stay instead of the sub?" They asked. In front of the sub. I felt bad for her. I told them, "Ms. L will be great fun today, just be good and listen close. I'll be back tomorrow." Half of them rushed me for hugs and high fives.
Some of them, I just want to take home with me and tell them that they will never have to live with those things again. I want to wrap my arms around them and save them from their own families. But I can't. As much as want to save them...I can't. I get one hour a day. Two and a half on Wednesdays.
I worry about them. I think about them. Even though I'm not religious, I pray for them, just in case I'm wrong.
I know I can't save them, but every day I can give them an hour. It can be one of the most difficult hours of every day. But it's usually one of the most rewarding as well. And I wouldn't give it up.
I really hope they can get back even a little of what they give me.