Monday, September 10, 2012

Childhood Lessons

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Like so many others in this world, I did not have a childhood that one would wish for.  But there were wonderful, caring people along the way who pitched in to fill the holes left by the uncaring or thoughtless.  One of those good souls was the principal at the school where I attended fourth grade.

Somehow that year, I found myself living with my father, his young wife and their two small children.  When I went home for lunch there was none and my stepmother was not glad to see another mouth at the table.  My solution was to pretend that I was leaving school for lunch, then walk around the block several times until I heard the first bell.  One day when I was returning to class from one of my noon walks, the principal was in the hall.  She smiled down at me and asked if she might ask a favor of me.  I nodded yes.

"I have to eat lunch everyday by myself and it is very lonesome," she said.  "Do you mind having lunch with me...and chatting?  You don't have to bring a thing, as I always pack too much for lunch...we can share."  It was agreed that we would see each other the next day for lunch in her office.

For the rest of the school year, the principal and I met in her office for lunch.  I loved her sandwiches and milk but most of all I cherished our conversations and the laughter.  We always remembered to tell each other how much we enjoyed the other's company.  Fellow students noticed that I ate lunch with the principal and accorded me the special attention that a celebrity might receive.  I learned to relish this celebrity with grateful humility.

It was many years later that I realized the Principal could see me on my lunch time walks from her second floor office.  From that realization, I knew that she had contrived a way to nourish a scrawny little girl, both physically and spiritually, while preserving that little girl's dignity.   She had also taught her a most important lesson in life...that giving is not about the giver; and that the recipient needn't be made to feel like a charity victim. 

Those lunches nourish me still, as I pass on her quiet, thoughtful caring to others.