As a child, I always looked forward to going back to school in the fall. As a parent, I now realize that my parents were equally excited (if not more) for the same thing.
Back then, some 40 years ago, we didn’t spend the month of August looking for the school supply list, the stores with the best sales or online to see if the teachers needed something special for the beginning of the year. At my house, we went to the store with my mother to look for McCall’s and Simplicity patterns so she could sew us some new, cool (and matching) dresses. We didn’t have to worry about supplies to start the year and looked forward to shopping at the school store.
At Lewinsville Elementary, there was a “store” inside the school where we could buy pencils, crayons and the best tasting paste in town. My sister reminded me recently about how inexpensive and delicious the tiny container of paste was. “It was only 15 cents, Debbie, and I remember how good it tasted!” I’ll have to remember that this year, as I watch the rascals sneaking glue sticks into their desks. Fortunately they’re not quite as tasty as the cheap, white paste.
I’ve been watching the signs go up all summer reminding everyone that school is right around the corner. I’m sure there are many parents who have already prepared the backpacks filled with back-to-school necessities. I’m equally confident that there are other parents, like me, who like to wait until the last possible moment to perform that particular August ritual. (It just makes that task a bit more exciting to do it at the last minute, don’t you think?)
For some parents in Arizona, however, they don’t have to perform that task at all thanks to an amazing act of generosity.
My Penn State intern from last year, Chelsi Amos, sent me an email last week. She accepted a first-grade teaching position near Scottsdale, Ariz., and started work a week ago.
“Debbie, you are not going to believe what just happened to me,” she wrote. “As you know, I drove my car from Pennsylvania to Arizona at the end of July. I took my car to get it inspected and the mechanic told me that basically I needed a new car. I was so upset! He asked me what I did for a living and I told him I was a first-grade teacher. He said he wanted my class list, because he wanted to buy a backpack with school supplies for my whole class! I almost cried! I did cry!”
A week later, the mechanic held true to his promise, and 30 backpacks showed up in Amos’ classroom. Not only were they filled with pencils, markers, crayons, paper and erasers, they also held something else. Each backpack had a stuffed animal inside so “each child would have someone to read to.”
That act of generosity made this teacher tear up.
“Debbie,” Amos added, “this reminded me of what you always said — that when you throw good out into the world, it always comes back. Thanks for teaching me so many things, but also the lessons about kindness and generosity.”
We’re all about to enter the hustle and bustle of this annual fall back-to-school transition, but let’s remember some very important things. Those markers, crayons and erasers are important for some of the activities that the kids will be doing. But many of the important lessons will be matters of the heart and soul. Sure, they’ll be reading and writing, calculating math problems and performing science experiments. But they’ll also learn to treat their classmates and their community with respect, kindness, generosity and love.
And, hopefully, no one will eat the paste.