My post today was inspired by another blogger that I follow, M.B. Henry. Her posts are usually historical in content, well written, and enjoyable to read. I read a recent post from her yesterday in which she was touched by the kindness of a stranger. Like her, I was also touched by kindness but that of one of my soon to be former students. Although our stories are different, we were both touched by gestures of another generation – for my blogging friend, it was one older than her and for me, it was a generation younger than I. Both stories are uplifting. One of the important points to both tales is that you never know when the kindness of a stranger or a child can touch your heart. This is something to remember and hold on to in these uncertain times.
Below is my story. The black text was published three years ago, shortly after I began my blog and this event happened. Today, I added the red text to give some more context to the story. I hope you are as touched as I was. Stay safe & Be Kind.
A Student’s Heartfelt Gift
Background: For 13 years, I ran the garden club I founded like a classroom. The students in grades 2-5 and I agreed upon rules during our first meeting. All of our sessions were based on Respect, Safety, and Responsibility – ideas in line with the behavior expectations of our school. I had the students give examples of what each of those words meant when it came to their behavior in Garden Club. Returning members and there were many, knew the drill. These members, along with high school National Honor Society members, were student role models. The younger students caught on quickly.
Planting season in the spring always brought some stress. Each year we planted our Monarch Waystation with new annuals. The reason I did not plant with the students in the fall was that I did not know them well enough as individuals. I felt this was a safety factor. By spring, I knew who would listen to my directions and who was likely to “test” me or forget! The following story happened after we planted our garden at school for the very last time.
As their teacher, I always wait with the students as parents arrive to pick them up from our garden club meetings. Invariably, there is a student, usually one of the younger ones, who becomes nervous that their adult will not arrive to take them home. Pick up was from outside the school this week, as we planted the butterfly garden. And, this was the cause of concern for at least one of my students. As dismissal time drew near, Lewis – a third-grader -voiced his concern over his mom not knowing we were in the garden, instead of the library. Intentional or not, this student also left his backpack inside the building, not following my direction to bring everything outside because we would dismiss from the garden. His concern grew as he realized he was the only one to have left something inside. As more and more students were retrieved, I told Lewis I would take him back into the library to pick up his backpack. Soon, Lewis was the only student left.
Just as we were headed up the hill, his mom appeared! I asked that she take him into the school to get his backpack and told him good-bye. It was our last garden club meeting, not only for the year but forever! I could not bring myself to tell the students this. The thirteen-year-old club had always been joined anew, each year, in the fall. So, I felt that emotions would be less close to the surface for both the students and me if I chose not to let the students know the club was ending. To not tell was a selfish decision, I know. But, one that I really felt was in the best interest of all. The students would learn the club had ended in the fall when there was no sign-up & permission to join taking place.
Just as I was cleaning up, Lewis came running back to the garden. “Mrs. L., Mrs. L.,” he shouted, “wait!” He ran up to me and immediately started digging in his backpack.
“I have something for you,” he said.
Digging, and more digging, in the bottom of the backpack. I started to wonder what it was that he had for me. After a few minutes, he pulled out a penny, a dull, worn down, obviously used, penny.
“This is for you”, he said as he placed it in my hand. “This is for the future, so you can make a difference, and have people stop spraying pesticides. You can change the world!”
You see, earlier in the month, I had to tell my students that our school-based butterfly garden and Monarch Way Station had been sprayed with pesticides! I was devastated and told the students in a prior meeting what had happened. This was a large factor, but not the only one, that led me to disband and end the 13-year-old club after the school year in 2017.
Wow! I really didn’t know what to say. These words of inspiration came from a third grader! He had listened to our lessons. He had synthesized the material. He knew that the problem of habitat loss for monarchs or other species was a global problem. I smiled. I was so touched!
All I could say was thank you. A big hug followed. But, the smile on my face told it all. The seed of environmental stewardship had been planted in at least one of my students. It was a great way to end our group. I will always treasure that penny and especially, the words that came with it.
What a heartfelt gift! While I never talked directly to the students about saving the world, it seems that is the message that was received. What a great idea! Yes, Lewis, let’s save the world.
Today, I still have that penny. The post by M.B. Henry reminded me of the importance of kindness. Right now, it is easy to be frustrated with so many circumstances outside of our individual control. It might be easy to take out that frustration on the people around us.
*The student’s name in this story has been changed to protect his identity.*