There is a reason why clichés are clichés. Yes, they are overused expressions that no respectable writer would dare scribble. (It’s a good thing I am not always respectable.) At the same time, however, the reason they are overused is because sometimes they fit exactly what you want to say. The expression, “You never know” is one of those clichés that just fit today. Every so often we all learn something about a person that surprises us, and I received a shock today that has left me profoundly sad.
I signed up to make dinner for a family in need as part of my church’s Meals that Heal Program. The only thing I knew was that the family had a grown son who had been severely disabled for a number of years, and was now in the process of dying. I did not recognize the name of the family, but I often do not know the people who are need. It’s just a small service I feel that I can perform in my busy life.
This morning I had some extra time, so I mindlessly scrolled through Facebook, but then I stumbled on the name from my Meals that Heal list, and my entire body arrested. I did know someone from this family. This was Ms. Emma’s family. I know Ms. Emma because she was a teacher’s aide in my children’s preschool. I never knew her last name because in the South preschoolers call everyone by his/her first name. For some of my children’s friends, I will always be Ms. Cara.
Two of my children had the privilege of seeing Ms. Emma three days a week. At drop off, she would greet kids and moms alike with a glorious smile and a twinkle that always proclaimed that Ms. Emma loved children. For me, that is the most important characteristic a preschool teacher (in truth, all teachers) should have. A child cannot learn if she doesn’t feel loved and safe. Ms. Emma always made my children feel both.
Every year I gave all the teachers and aides a Christmas gift. The first year I gave one to Ms. Emma, she tracked me down in the hallway to give me a grand hug and a hearty thank you. I wish I could remember the gift, but it has been at least seven years, so I cannot recall what the gift was. (Seriously, I cannot recall what I ate for breakfast this morning.) I doubt the content of the gift really mattered then or now. What was significant was Emma’s graciousness and gratitude. It was her way, and I always felt warm in her presence.