He’d saved his own money to buy me a Christmas present. He told his dad he wanted to go to the bookstore, so his dad took him.
He bought me a picture instead of a book and watched with great pride as the clerk wrapped it.
“I got it for my mom,” he told the clerk.
“Oh, she’ll love it!”
He clasped it to his heart all the way home.
He burst into the house, calling, “Mom! Mom! I got you a present!”
His dad said, “Son, just put it under the tree. It’s for Christmas.”
“I want to give it to her now!”
“All right,” I said, sitting down on the couch. My little boy scrambled up beside me. “I’ll go ahead and open it, if that’s what you want.”
He watched my every move as I unwrapped the paper and pulled out the matted picture bearing the quote: A teacher in wisdom and kindness helps children learn to do exactly what they thought could not be done.
I didn’t know what to say for a moment.
“It’s beautiful, honey,” I said, hugging him. “Thank you so much.”
“Do you love it, Mom?”
“I do … but I’m not a teacher.”
My son surveyed me with huge dark eyes that seemed far older than his six years: “Oh yes you are, Mom.”
At the time, I wasn’t even a college graduate. Teaching wasn’t on my radar. Thirteen years, a degree, and another baby later, I actually became a teacher. In all of those education courses that required me to describe my educational philosophy, I wrote: A teacher is an encourager, recalling that solemn little face, those big eyes, the absolute conviction shining in them. Children, sometimes, are the greatest of sages, the most profound of prophets.
Three more years, and the boy graduated college himself with a degree in history. “What am I going to do for a job?” he asked one afternoon, a slight hint of anxiety in his voice.
“Teach,” I answered, smiling.
He didn’t smile back. “But I’m not a teacher.”
“Oh yes you are, Son.”
Before the summer ended, he had a job teaching social studies at his old high school. When he went to set up his classroom, he cleaned out the cabinets and found old tests – including his own.
He also became a soccer coach, taking his team to the championships and winning regional Coach of the Year this past season.
We didn’t seek teaching; it found us. We’ve done exactly what we thought could not be done – we do it every day, all over again.
And every day is new, if not easy; every day offers wisdom, beckons kindness, invites us to believe in others, in ourselves, every moment a chance to create, to reinvent, to overcome. It can be done.
Encourage one another.