This week, there was a problem inside one of my classrooms. Kids! They don't always do the right thing. Except, there was one boy who stood there trying to stop the melee. He was the only one. For his effort, I gave him the certificate for "Student of the Week" the following day on Thursday.
For all my students, I had them write in their journals for five minutes about how a friend has helped them. It related to our problem the day before and to the story we were reading that day.
Then, I told them that since they had gotten to tell a story, that I got to tell them a story too. I told them this.
It happened way back when my oldest kids were little---my big son was in pre-k and my daughter was only a year old. It was a cold November morning in the Midwest; the first really chilly morning and there was a mist in the air that was almost turning into a rain. Everyone had their headlights turned on along one of the main arteries that ran through a residential area. That's when I saw the boy.
The boy was as old as my youngest son is now. He was a middle school student, but he wasn't ready for school, or for the weather. He was standing there, on the sidewalk in shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. I wondered why.
The light changed and I kept on rushing to drop off my boy at the nursery school. I was a busy mom and had things to do---like everybody. On the way back, he was still standing there, so I pulled over.
I got out of the car, leaving my baby in her carseat. "Are you OK? Do you need some help?"
"My aunt locked me out," he told me.
She wasn't home and he didn't know when she'd be coming back. He only knew she was mad and he was being punished by being left standing out in the cold without the right clothes. I then realized that he didn't have any shoes on either.
I offered to take him to our house. What I didn't say to the kids is that this was me before I took shahaddah. My beliefs of doing for others---especially for children---have always been a part of me.
I took him home, had him wash his feet in warm water, and gave him some slip-on tennies. I donated a sweatshirt from my then-husband's closet. I made some waffles, since he hadn't eaten. We sat there; me, my baby girl and this boy trying to warm up.
I called his school and notified them of his whereabouts. They arranged for the aunt to give me a call. I brought him home. I didn't tell the kids how I sat with the exasperated aunt and explained that I didn't want any problem to separate the two of them again. Having worked in an emergency shelter before, I knew that removing children from a family's care happens all too often.
The point of the story is not that I helped. The point is that so many didn't. Between the time I saw the boy and the time I came back was twenty minutes. No one else stopped in that time. No one.
I asked the class to decide who they want to be: the one who helps or the one who drives on past? I once again thanked the boy I'd awarded for being someone who helps.
A hand raised up. Another boy wanted to know if I had ever seen that boy again. I was going to answer that I hadn't, but then a thought occurred to me.
"I don't know! He would be close to thirty years old now so maybe I have actually seen him, but not even realized it was him. Maybe he is a dad himself now! What I hope, when I think of him or anyone else that I've ever helped over the years is that he is OK now. I can send some good thoughts or a kind of prayer that he's doing well. If he ever remembers that day that he stood out in the cold, then I'm glad that he can also remember that someone cared and didn't just drive past."