Sitting in the guidance office at the end of the week, I listened as some of the staff, exhausted, relayed stories of the challenges at the school; too many children with too many needs; parents, many single parents, struggling to make ends meet AND rise above their own issues to help their children succeed; staff who don’t have time to even get a drink of water during the course of the day, much less have a restroom break.
I did a bit of volunteering to help run the school store that afternoon. Teachers lined the kids up in the hallway, all their heads craning to see what was on the tables – small toys, decorated pencils, little pieces of candy, cards for ‘special time’ with various teachers. The kids can buy these items for a certain number of tickets – tickets they have earned during the week for exhibiting good behavior. They also have an option to bank their tickets. One volunteer was busy with a massive list of all students, taking note of the number of tickets each child had, and congratulating them on looking forward, thinking about the larger toys they will be able to buy if they save a bit.
The kids were uniformly excited, as elementary kids are, about the prospects. Fast hands moving quickly across the boxes of goods, eager eyes, tattered clothes, dusty hair. All with a smile.
After dismissal and the last buses roared away, Mr. G came by the doorway of the counselor’s office. He is the janitor – an older man with graying hair and beard. We said hello, and he stammered back his greeting – he has a strong stutter. We waited patiently as he got his phrases out, him smiling as he spoke, apologetic for the pace.
Some of us launched into celebratory song – for it was the end of an exhausting week. Mr. G’s eyes lit up. He was impressed with our attempt (I’d say) at singing an early ’80’s disco tune. Then, with his broken cadence, he let us know that he, too, was a singer. I admit feeling awkward at that moment, not wondering where this would lead – a man with such a stutter, pushing the garbage can and broom. We invited him to share.
He paused, and looked upward, then closed his eyes.
The most beautiful song came from him – perfectly sung, flowing flawlessly and elevating across a range none of us could believe.
Tears welled up in my eyes. We were all silent when his last note was done, and I stood, gave him a hug, and thanked him.