Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Humbled By Kindness Part 2

Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?"

The King will reply, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."
Matthew 25:37-40

“We sat together for a bit – until one of the teachers noticed us – CeCe knows them all – those teachers….and gathered CeCe up to sit closer to the front.  Just in time.  The principal had commandeered the microphone and was launching into a stern spiel about behavior during graduation – and hiring extra police to ensure the acting appropriately – and no hugging of board members – and – oh my, it made me think what are we getting ourselves into…..”

“I took notes.  Between the principal and the student activities director, I took about a page and half of instructions – what to expect, when to do what, where to be, etc., etc., etc.  Good grief – if I have to take notes, how in the world will CeCe be able to handle this?”  The woman shifted in her chair, her voice had risen – somewhat louder, pitched higher.  She looked again at the photo, agitated.  Then smiled.  Like lights turning on.

“Just when I thought the instructions were never going to end, they did.  The students were to go to two different hallways to line up.  Their names would be posted in line-up order along the walls.  No more direction than that. “

Eyes watery – the old woman pushed her glasses up from where they’d slipped on her nose.  “She was so small – looked like a 10-year old, especially in the middle of all those big bodies.  I could tell with most of them that they didn’t even see her – no fault of theirs – they were only kids – but this line-up thing….names in alphabetical order for pete’s sake – CeCe didn’t know these kids – she knew her classmates, she knew some of the teachers – but which line…..”

“Well, we walked down the first hall – I still feel CeCe’s hands, both of them, holding tight on my arm.  And we checked names – if you get to the Ds, you’ve gone too far – I remember the activities director saying – helpful, right?  Down the first hall – Campbell, Cannon, Chelton, Cole, Cox, Daniels….. I double-checked.  One of the boys – tall, with longish dreads, was dancing in line – getting down with the hip rocking – right in front of us.  Guess I was old-fashioned even then.  It didn’t sit right – not his fault, he was excited about graduation in his own way – It’s just, sometimes the gulf was so wide between my daughter and the other kids….”  The voice drifted off into a kind of audio-stare thing – silent, thinking, remembering…  

“Anyway, we were in the wrong hallway.”  She turned and looked directly at me, with that teacher let’s-get-back-to-business voice of hers.  “So I took my girl to the other one – the other line-up – and started reading names….Black, Cash, Coleman, Coons…. There it was.  Easy peasey.   In a way, I was relieved to have found her name.  It kind of showed that we were in the right place – this hall, this practice, this graduation….but it felt bigger than just the moment – more of a validation of doing the right thing in pushing my girl to do and be – even in that unique way of hers.” 

“But in another way, I was nervous.  Again.  I knew I couldn’t be the mom who walked around with her girl – I was going to have to let her go – let her do this herself…or at least with help from the school, not the mom…  But there still weren’t any familiar faces….no official help, and CeCe wasn’t letting go of my hand.”  The voice cracked.  I looked at her – this woman – so intent on my understanding.  She had the finest tracings of wrinkles around her eyes…I thought of the joys and pains she had endured – earning these lines, like badges of honor.

Abruptly, she dropped her focus to the album on her lap, on that blurred picture – the tall and the short out-of-focus… “He made the difference.  That Daniel.”  She spread her fingers over the tall figure – peering, then looked up at me – eyes dancing.  “It just doesn’t want to focus – no matter how hard I try.”  Laughter in her voice.  “But I remember his face anyway.  He had a kind face.  Young.  Observant.  He was just watching the line form – seemed to be aware of everyone and everything. He saw CeCe.  He saw my girl.  I could tell he was a little surprised by her – maybe her size, or how young she looked.  Maybe he was surprised to see her mother tagging along.  But I could see the kindness, the little bit of a smile, the eyebrow raised just a tad, the looking-but-not-staring.  He saw her.”  She looked up again – chin tilted slightly forward, eyes challenging.  No laughter now – serious. 

“So I decided to take a chance.  I asked if he was Daniel – if his was the name on the list – in line ahead of my daughter.  Yes, M’am’, he said.  He was softspoken, voice not too deep coming from that tall body.  I introduced him to CeCe – she shook his hand, looking up into his face.  I asked him if he knew her at all – a lot of surprising people did…. ‘No, M’am’, he answered.  Now or never, I thought…. so I jumbled out the situation – that CeCe would be in the graduation but that the whole thing was a little overwhelming – to both of us – and that I didn’t want her to get lost or be in the wrong place…I know I was talking fast because that’s what I did when I was nervous – hypertalk.  I remember he really didn’t hesitate – he just looked at CeCe, then back at me and said “I’ll watch out for her, M’am”.  Really?  I asked.  You really will?  “Yes, M’am”, he said, ‘she’ll be fine.”

The woman smiled softly and turned toward me again.  “Sometimes you just have to take a chance.”  Her voice resonated with wisdom.  “He made room for kindness – it was a set-up, you know.  A God thing.  Choices.  I had to choose to trust – Daniel had to choose to act….”  She trailed off, looking down at the book.

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