For the first year and a half of my job working in the school, I was the ‘front office person.’ (Dear Reader, I’ve been there three years this month. It’s seemed like an eternity and yet a blink of an eye.) I saw the kids who were sick, I saw the kids who were tardy, I saw the kids who were in trouble. Often, I was the one who was calling to organize transportation for the kids to go home, or I was the one who retrieved them when their guardians showed up to pick them up. Sometimes there were days that I didn’t want to send the kids home though. I would walk them to their classroom (or locker) to retrieve their belongings–especially if they were being sent home for disciplinary reasons. Often they would have crocodile tears rolling out of their eyes. “Dead man walking” is the narration going through my head as we would head up the steps.
“It’s been a rough day, huh?” I would say to the tiny human who is silent as the grave, as they trudge one step at a time.
“Yeah.” A tear splashes on the steps.
“But tomorrow will be better, right?” I would try to encourage them. “Tomorrow’s always going to be better than today. It’s a new day.”
“You don’t know that.” This one child responded, looking at me solemnly and heading along. He retrieved his belongings and away he went with his mom. She wasn’t happy–we all knew this. I wish I could have helped, but I just didn’t know how. Two days later, he was sent home again. This time, his dad picked him up; this time there were no tears. At that point, I couldn’t shake the idea that he’d given up hope about there being a better tomorrow.
I went back to work the following Monday, knowing that there was a slim chance I’d see him there. He was in the final stages of discipline process in our school, and his parents had a real conversation the last time they were in. I wanted to have a real conversation with him, but I was not in that place to do it. I wanted to ask him why he’d been so angry, why he burst out with violence and words when there’s seemingly no cause. There was always a cause, I just didn’t know what was beneath the surface. I wanted to tell him that this intense rollercoaster of emotions would level out, that he was just at the beginning of it all. I wanted to remind him that tomorrow’s going to be a better day.
Two days after this interaction, another act of violence shook our country. A boy–a little older than the one I walked to his classroom that day–acted out in violence and words–shaking a community and injuring the world around him. The shooter’s name is not one that should go down in infamy, but sadly his legacy will be remembered for the devastation it brought. I read the news, I listened to the reports, and I thought of the kids in my school. My heart broke because I heard the conversation again that I had a few days previous: “Tomorrow’s always going to be better than today. It’s a new day.”
“You don’t know that.”
I don’t know that. So, I struggle with hope. All I can do is hope.