Lynda’s post this week about her visit to the girls’ shelter was lovely. She planted seeds and saw potential, and it had a profound effect on her.
The girls reminded me of my own students—past and present—some of whom board the school bus each morning in front of the neighborhood homeless shelter.
The girls reminded me of my students who are able to write things in their dialogue journals that they would never be able to talk about face-to-face.
They reminded me of Blanca, a 4th grader whose mother was left behind in El Salvador. I gave Blanca a journal of her own one day and told her to write whatever she wanted to—in Spanish or in English—and that it was not for a grade, but only for her. She never showed me what she wrote, but she would let me know when one journal was filled and I would give her another.
There is a 2nd grade boy at my school who pops into the library at least twice per day—once before school, once right after school, and sometimes on his way to and from recess. He is, hands-down, our most loyal customer. Although he is a struggling reader, he is undaunted by words—spoken or written. His voice has only one volume setting: Really Loud. When he talks, he scarcely takes time to breathe. Despite his disheveled appearance and rocky home life, he takes excellent care of his library books.
When I found out that one of his all-time favorite books is a picture book called Wink, The Ninja Who Wanted To Be Noticed, by J.C. Phillipps (Viking, 2009), I suggested that he write to Ms. Phillipps (who happens to be one of my long-time critique partners). So he did. And so did she.
Not only did she answer his letter and send him a signed bookmark, but she also sent a copy of her second book, Wink, the Ninja Who Wanted to Nap. She wrote a note for him inside the book and drew him a little ninja Wink on the page. He was speechless. It is the first brand-new hardback book that he has ever owned.
A few days later, he brought in a tattered copy of a Sponge Bob paperback. When we saw that it wasn’t a library book, we tried to give it back to him. But he wouldn’t take it. He said that it used to be his favorite book, and now he wants to keep it in the library in case other kids might like to read it.
The world of children’s literature is an amazingly giving place. I tend to get caught up in the idea that giving stops with the receiver. I forget sometimes that giving is wonderfully contagious. It can transform recipient into giver in ways we might never imagine.
Yes, Lynda inspired those girls to find their voices and put pen to paper. And yes, they gave something back to her–an appreciation for the things in life that we often take for granted. But the girl with the spark in her eyes, with the idea for a story–to whom will she pass on the gift of inspiration? To a classmate this week? To her own child years from now? Or maybe it will be to an auditorium filled with hopeful writers that remind her of herself on the day that Lynda came to speak.
Wishing all of you wondrous, contagious gifts this season!