A matter of heart

Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.

-Ecclesiastes 7:8

Last week didn’t start so well.

On Sunday, I broke a bone in my foot while simply walking (and falling, somehow) down the garage steps.

I’d already taken Monday off to attend my brother-in-law’s funeral but spent it on my couch instead with my newly-damaged foot elevated, commiserating with my husband, whose leg has developed a discolored, painful bulge—the leg from which veins were removed for his bypass surgery last fall. It’s not a clot, and that’s all we know until his appointment this week.

“I never would have believed that I wouldn’t be able to attend my own brother’s service,” he sighed. It’s a seven-hour round trip; neither of us was up to it.

I surveyed our legs, propped on the same stool. His left, my right. Mirror-images of each other. Except for my orthopedic boot.

I sighed, too, the entire left side of my body sore from overcompensating for the right. “I know. This is like being eighty years old or something.” Which is decades away…

Our college-student son, passing through the living room, quipped in his deadpan way: “Well, at least you’ll know what to expect when you are eighty.”

So. That was Monday.

On Tuesday I returned to work. It happened to be the 100th day of school, meaning that most kindergarten and first grade students (and many of their teachers) came dressed as old people. White hair, glasses, wrinkles sketched with eyeliner, canes galore.

For a split second, I mused: Who wants to live to be a hundred?

But the kids were adorable, their teachers were having fun, and God knows we all need to have more fun at school. Too much of it isn’t.

That is where my mind was when a little “old” person wandered up to me in the lobby where I rested on a bench between the arrival of buses, my morning duty.

A kindergartner. Big, mournful eyes moving from my boot to my face: “Are you all right?”

“Oh yes! I am fine,” I said, touched by the obvious concern in that small voice.

“What happened to your foot?

“Well, I broke a bone in it.”

“Does it hurt?”

“No, really, it doesn’t. The boot is a cushion for it, see, and it doesn’t hurt at all right now.”

A flicker of relief across the little, made-up old face. The tiny pseudo-centenarian went on her way.

That was Tuesday.

And Wednesday, and Thursday, and Friday. Everywhere I went, the kids wanted to know: What did you do to your foot?

I shared the X-ray with some of them, saw the fascination in their eyes.

Some didn’t ask anything. They came up to me just to say I hope you will be okay. I hope you feel better.

As I labored up and down the staircases, one careful step at a time—the elevator at school is BROKEN—I thought a lot about the curiosity and compassion of children, how natural these things are for them, how comfortable children are with asking and expressing. If we can preserve, nurture, stir curiosity and compassion through all of their formative years … what a different culture, what a different world, it would be. Possibly our greatest work.

The week ended much better than how it began. Not because of satisfying still more curiosity about my broken foot with ongoing questions, or the taste of true human compassion at its purest. Not because I made it through the first week of recovery, although that was a glad milestone. No. Friday was a day of festivities, of celebration, all shining from the children’s faces.

“Happy Valentime’s Day, Mrs. Haley!” called the little ones when they passed me in line in the hallways, inviting me to their classrooms to share their candy, their cupcakes, their joy.

Valentimes. The mispronunciation seems almost poetic. As in, these times are made for Valentines. Definitely for love.

Oh my, thank you, I’ll come see your goodies but you keep them; they were given to you.

You yourselves are gifts enough to me, children.

You as well as puppy therapy. ❤️

Dennis the dachshund takes turns between my lap and my husband’s while we prop our legs.

17 thoughts on “A matter of heart

  1. You captured the sweet innocent concern of children. We had 100th day a few weeks ago and it was fun to see all the creativity in costumes and decorations. My mother-in-law likes to say, “Getting old isn’t for sissies.” Keep on healing and finding the joy in every day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • When I told kids the worst part was not being able to drive, they said, “Now you’re like us!” They seemed pleased – a curious kinship. I will heal. I really just want to find out what my husband needs to do for his leg. He’s been driving me 😢

      Liked by 2 people

  2. My heart was, an still is, going out to both you and your husband at the beginning of this piece. I was feeling for your compromised bodies and missing the funeral. All realities that are hard to swallow. Then, when you take us into school the tone changes. Being surrounded by innocence makes going to work a gift. When people ask me how work is, I often say, “Fabulous. I am surrounded by innocence all day!” You capture another layer to my belief with this slice and these words, “taste of true human compassion at its purest”. Here’s to a speedy recovery for you and your husband.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Dawn, for all your insights & kind words. Innocence, yes … the kids say what they think and naturally try to offer comfort. It’s often amazing. And humbling. And – good news for my husband: the issue isn’t serious! Things are looking up 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Kids sort of just expect things to be hard and roll with it. They understand that they are learning. As adults, it is harder for us – we’ve already learned that!

    I am glad the children were so kind and understanding. And I hope that elevator gets fixed soon!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right about kids expecting things to be hard and rolling with it. I have a clip of my new granddaughter, age 4, saying “It’s hard to be a kid.” 🤣 – future post? Thank you, Adrienne.

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  4. Thank you for these precious words about children’s innate compassion:

    “I thought a lot about the curiosity and compassion of children, how natural these things are for them, how comfortable children are with asking and expressing. If we can preserve, nurture, stir curiosity and compassion through all of their formative years … what a different culture, what a different world, it would be.”

    Yes, this is the hope behind my teaching. Love this!
    Here’s to your foot mending easily and your husband being 100% healthy soon, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This line – “The tiny pseudo-centenarian” made me chuckle – such a vivid image. Then the curiosity and compassion the children demonstrate made me a little teary. May both you and your husband heal quickly. And until then – and afterwards – may the children buoy you up.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Fran, I liked that you started your slice with scripture and that it provides advice. Being patient in spirit is a difficult task. Take care, both you and your husband. At the end of this current trial, let there be new insight.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Last week was a hard week! You have me wondering if it’s the innocence of children, the purity in their behavior and emotions and comments that plays a part in why we continue to work in this field. Your care for your students was reciprocated just when you needed it most.

    Liked by 1 person

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