My wife teaches pre-K in a poor area. The kids come from different kinds of families including those who don't speak much English. It's challenging work. She's a natural at it, which is to say that she has been doing it so well and thoughtfully for so long that she makes it look natural, almost effortless.
On Teacher Appreciation Day some kids and families brought her gifts. Our country doesn't value children so my wife's salary is crap and she has no benefits, but kids and parents know a good teacher when they see her and bring gifts when occasions come along. It was all very nice and my wife was very appreciative.
The next day she came home with one more gift bag. Inside I saw an unopened box of Wegmans cereal. Honey? I asked, pointing to the bag, expecting a ridiculous story. Instead, I learned of grace and wonder.
One child, seeing other kids presenting my wife with gifts, was horrified not to have anything to give. She must have said as much to her family. Remember that we're talking about a four-year-old who doesn't speak much English and lives in poverty. Picture her making a fuss about how she's just got to have something to give teacher. The parent has a gift bag but no present. The parent or kid sees an unopened box of cereal and this seems right to one or both of them. Into the bag it goes and the kid comes to school thrilled to present my wife with a gift.
My wife accepts the gift bag without looking into it, gives the kid a big hug and thank you, her face the very picture of gratitude and love. I know that face and look, having had the good fortune of all that turned on me from time to time, so I know that kid felt like she was the hub of the universe, deserving all the love my wife showed her. I like sitting here imagining that moment of wonder and grace that is made all the more poignant with a four-year-old desperate to give something to her teacher.
I mean, come on. This is beautiful stuff.
Later, my wife sees the box of cereal. For just a moment her face forms a question mark, but then she realizes the significance of this gift, the beauty of it, and knows that she has been presented with something special, maybe something spectacular. This is what she does: she sees the wonder in these things though she doubts the wonder of herself that brings on such acts of kindness.
I filled a bowl with that cereal this morning. I poured milk over it and maybe a tear or two that I was blinking away because of the image of that little kid, her need to give, and the woman who glowed receiving it. God I'm in love with this world and especially in love with that woman.