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.


  1. Annie,
    What a wonderful story and that principal must have been a compassionate woman. It must have been a highlight for her too sharing her lunch with a very special and deserving student.
    I cannot imagine what it would have been like not to have had food on the table as a child growing up.
    It's a reminder to me that we must always count our blessings and give to those in need in our local community.

  2. Annie,

    Your story is very touching. It is amazing what a simple kindness can do for a child in need. Thank goodness for your principal's powers of observation and her compassion. She provided you with a way to build resilience by turning a huge negative into a small positive. It is often that kind of love from adults outside the immediate family that keeps children going forward in life with some sense of confidence and hope. Thanks for sharing this little bit of yourself.

    Big hugs to you!

  3. Only very rarely do I read a small story that has such a huge heart it spreads out for miles, touching so many people. This is a perfect example.

  4. What a beautiful story. And of course I love those photos. I wish more people were like your principle. I think that now a days a principle would be fired for doing something like that, despite its importance. Sad to know this. And so it becomes that much more important that the rest of us do our part to give in the seemingly little places it is needed. Thank you so much for this beautiful reminder and for sharing such an important story.

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  7. Gratitude for the brilliant knowledge principal and I met in her office for lunch ! I just came across your blog and l like the content. I look forward to reading your blog posts in the future,