Whew! Today was a doozie. It was one of those days where everything happened in just the right order so that by the end of the day my heart just couldn't take any more reminders of how blessed and lucky I am.
It didn't help to start my afternoon with a showing of Toy Story 3 in the classroom! That has got to be the saddest child's movie on the planet. I got choked up at the beginning and I was downright weepy at the end. I've seen it before, of course, but it was so much sadder now that I know how much Sylvia LOVES her Woodie doll and her baby doll. Phew! I had to hold back tears so my kids wouldn't think I was crazy.
But THEN we read Chapter 3 of Three Cups of Tea and I just couldn't hold those tears in for one more minute! My kids are really getting into this story, and I've read the book a million times, but today it just really hit home for all of us. In Chapter 3, Greg discovers that the children in Korphe don't have a school. He finds them kneeling in the frozen dirt, practicing their multiplication tables with sticks in the mud, BY THEMSELVES. No teacher, because they can't afford to pay the teacher his $1 per day salary. I read the last paragraph where Greg asks the question, "Could you imagine a fourth grade class in America working on their lessons with no teacher?' and then he promises the village chief that he will build them a school. (This quick summary doesn't do the book justice - it is so beautifully written, especially for kids.)
I closed the book and said, "Wow, guys - what a great chapter for us to read on the day before Thanksgiving break!" (Because I totally didn't plan for it to work out this way, but it did!) I looked at one of my sweet little boys and his eyes were filling up with tears. I knew he could feel what I was feeling - that sudden, overwhelming sense that we all have so MUCH. You know how it is when you see someone else crying - I just couldn't hold it in any more! Luckily, the rest of the kids saw me crying, so no one looked at the crying boy, but before I knew it, we were ALL sniffling and talking about how lucky we are to have such luxuries as pencils and books, and a ROOF. I asked my kids, "What does this tell you about those kids in Pakistan? What character traits do they have?" And my AWESOME kids said things like, "They really care about their learning!" and "They must be really responsible." Then one of them said, "Hey, Mrs. Fasciotto? They only pay a dollar a day for their teacher? Our teachers are worth way more than that." She didn't say her teachers MAKE more than that, she said her teachers were WORTH more than that - and I'll consider that sentence out of her mouth my early Christmas present. (I explained, of course, that the teachers in Pakistan work just as hard, if not harder, than teachers do here, it's just a different culture and a different country.)
The rest of the day ended as usual, with a little more excitement as the kids started talking about their plans for the break. After school, I had to stay until 7:00 for parent-teacher conferences, but after the wonderful conferences I had last night, I was actually looking forward to sitting down with these parents and chit chatting about how great their kids are. I am so grateful for parents who say things like, "What can we do at home to help?" and (gasp) "Thank you for what you do in the classroom!" And you know what? ALL of my parents said thank you. All of them. Even the ones I was worried about - the ones who have kids that are struggling beyond belief - they said Thank You. Those two little words make a world of difference and this community really understands that. They are so gracious and I felt so blessed to be around such wonderful parents. All of them. Wonderful. Can't say it enough. They're amazing.
So, as if the book and the conferences weren't enough to remind me that I'm the luckiest person on the planet, I happened to swing by the Giving Tree in our school lobby before I left. It was put up yesterday morning and I've been meaning to stop by and grab some ornaments for the needy families at our school. I sent home the paperwork for the Giving Tree a few weeks ago, and I know I have at least a few students who sent it back with their family's requests for Christmas gifts. Of course, there's no way of knowing who's who on the Giving Tree, so I was just going to find some items that we could get easily and that would be fun to send in for some kids. The first ornament I saw said, "#11, Girl, 2yrs, baby doll." I snagged that sucker right up, because I instantly thought of Sylvia. She loves her baby doll more than anything and I thought it would be fun to get one for another little girl. I also grabbed ornaments for the same girl: "baby doll accessories" and "learning toys." Then I got in my car, looked at the ornaments in my hand and started crying again!
There's a little girl in our community - who has a brother or sister at our school - and her parents can't afford to buy her a baby doll for Christmas. Sylvia got a baby doll a month ago for NOTHING. Just because. Because she has a doting Grammy who thought it would be cute. And when I thought about all the joy that doll brings to our little one, how she puts it to bed every night and gives it a kiss only to snatch it up every morning and drag it around all day smothering it with hugs and kisses, all I could hope for was that this 2 year old will have the same joy. I couldn't help but weep tears of gratitude and thanks for all that I have and all that my family is able to provide.
I complain about teaching in a trailer, or not having our own house yet, or all the extra work that comes along with my job. Then I make it through days like today, exhausted and red-eyed, and I go to sleep with a smile of deep appreciation on my face. How could I ever want anything more than this job, and this community, and this family? Life doesn't get any better than this.