Every now and again, I happen to bump up against an everyday hero, someone who’s done something that may seem inconsequential to themselves, but makes a lasting impression on me.
Recently, I attended a fund-raiser for an adult literacy campaign. Now, I live in an area where it doesn’t seem likely that there might be anyone of a certain age facing challenges of that sort. Which just goes to show how uninformed I am.
That evening, I met a middle-aged woman who was there to thank the organizers of this event for their efforts. She is about to embark on her fourth attempt to graduate from junior college. It’s her goal to become a nurse, but because she’s struggled with the language barrier (she’s an émigré from another country trying to build a new life for herself in ours), she’s failed three times in her attempt to move on to nursing school. Having the opportunity to be tutored by an adult literacy volunteer has made a huge difference in her life.
I found myself wondering just how many people possess the temerity to continue in the face of that many stalled efforts… I seriously doubt I would have the resolve to keep going after flunking three times. But this woman is determined to be a nurse. And I find myself thinking that she’s exactly the kind of caregiver I would like to have, should I ever happen to need one.
A co-worker told me the other day that when she was out walking her dog, she happened to overhear her son teasing a neighbor kid for wearing shabby clothes. “Why don’t you get yourself some decent stuff?” she heard him say.
Her response? She walked up quietly and, standing behind him, proceeded to tell the other kid, the object of her boy’s tormenting, “First of all, I want you to know that everything my son is wearing right now came from a thrift store. He looks pretty nice, but he’s looking nice in clothes that somebody else owned before he did. Secondly, I want you to know there is absolutely nothing wrong with what you are wearing right now, either.”
Her next move was to round up a scruffy set of clothing two sizes too small for her son that she made him wear to school the following day. She said, “I told him, ‘I want you to know what it feels like. I want you to understand that that little boy you teased had to go home last night feel bad the entire evening because of the things you said to him. I thought I had raised you to be a better person than that. But it’s not too late. You are going to be a better person than that, if for no other reason than you’re going to know how that little boy felt after the things you said. You may think of this as punishment. I think of it as a way to make you understand something I thought you had learned a long time ago.’”
I don’t know… I suppose some folks might call that cruel parenting. But to me—a non-parent—it seems about right. Heroic, even.
Boy, am I lucky to meet people like these.