Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Let Your Light Shine

I have written about my daughter several times.  She is one of the most amazing people I know, thus worth writing about.  Today my thoughts go back to her as a five year old.  We had just moved here, to NC and left behind her best friend, Molly.  We had also left behind her beloved Montessori school, and Mrs. Kelsey.  Montessori was a fabulous experience for Allie.  She was very motivated and self directed.  She flourished in this environment so much so that we were contemplating letting her attend kindergarten there as well.  This was huge coming from two very pro-public school parents!  But then we moved and that settled that question.  We registered our kids in the neighborhood school because we missed the deadline for magnet schools.  Cary Elementary was a far cry from what Stephen had experienced in Bethesda Elementary and an even farther cry from Allie's Montessori school.  Allie had the hardest time adjusting to the differences. 

Allie from the time she could speak had a very firm grasp on right and wrong and fair and unfair.  I know she is not that different from most kids at that age, but she verbalized her opinions much stronger than most kids her age.  So walking into a traditional kindergarten classroom was a shock.

Allie was taller than most five year olds, but extremely skinny.  I would buy dresses several sizes big to get the length, and then the dress would just wrap around her little body.  So when she came running down the hill from the bus stop, she would billow!  It was quite amusing.  What wasn't so amusing was the big note that inevitably would be pinned to her chest.  She would always jump in my arms needing to be held and reassured after a day away from me.  After that, and while she was snacking, I would read the note.  "Allie was on yellow today because she would not put her work away when it was circle time."  That was the gist of all the notes.  I would sit down with her and ask about what happened.  She would cry and explain that she wasn't through yet and Mrs. Kelsey always said to finish your work before you moved on.  I would calmly explain that Mrs. Postal's class was different.  "But it is unfair!"  would ultimately pour out of this little girl's mouth.  I would hold her as she would then spill every unfair thing that had happened that day.  You see, Allie didn't just observe the unfairness around her, she felt it.  Physically.  She would absorb all that unfairness and wrongness, and then come home to let it out on me.  Yes, to say that kindergarten was a hard year would be an understatement.

This is the narrative of Allie's kindergarten experience that gets retold.  But there is another narrative that lurks there under the surface.  Mrs. Postal had a full-time aid, Mrs. Mujica.  Mrs. Mujica saw Allie.  She saw the bright little girl who stored hurts, just like she did.  She saw the leader in Allie, the resilience, the bravery, the heart.  She became Allie's champion.  Often, when Mrs. Mujica could see that Allie was struggling, she would take Allie with her on "errands".  She would talk to her and build her up.  Almost as often as a note was pinned on Allie's chest, a note would be tucked in Allie's lunchbox.  This note would be from Mrs. Mujica.  "Allie, what a great smile you had today as you worked.  I noticed you helping Sara.  Thank you.  Love, Mrs. Mujica"  She wanted Allie to know that she was good and that the goodness had been seen.   Mrs. Mujica was a pet lover, so when we got Sunshine, they bonded over their dogs.  I think Mrs. Mujica played a big role in Allie coming to accept Sunshine, actually.

What could have been a terrible experience for Allie turned into a cherished memory.  I am not saying that it wasn't hard for Allie and for me, but Mrs. Mujica brought light where darkness could have reigned.  In fact, Allie wants to be a Kindergarten teacher one day. 

On this day, a day that holds significant importance, we need to stop and think about the Mrs. Mujica's.  We often reflect only on the negative and overlook the positive.  Whoever wins this election we will still be here.  There will still be poor people, sick people, hurting people.  This world will still need light.  So, as the election comes to a close this evening and we all learn who will lead us, let us not focus on the dark, the negative.  Let us see the positive, let us be the light where we see darkness. 

Mrs. Mujica died when Allie was in 6th grade.  It was a tragic loss, not only for her young family, but for the many children and families she touched.  Even though she is not here to continue lighting our world, I know my family shines brighter because of her.  I wonder how many lives Allie will shine light into because of knowing Mrs. Mujica.

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