When the caller ID showed the name of one of my daughter’s teachers, I quickly answered. Her voice was steady and soft, the only way I’ve ever heard her speak. She explained that she wanted to run an idea by me, so I listened.
The teachers at my daughters’ small private school often meet after work to pray for their students, healing, and direction. For over a year, these women have prayed for me, and when I was out of commission, they helped maintain consistency in Gracie’s life. They knew her momma was really sick, so they provided more hugs, more prayers, more reassurance.
Sometimes in these meetings, they prayed for God to show them a way to help our family. They considered a few traditional options, but nothing felt right…until a little girl provided the answer. Emily, my daughter’s best friend and the daughter of Christie, one of my best friends, told the teacher that she wanted to do something to help with Gracie’s mom’s medical expenses. She explained that Gracie’s mom loves arts and crafts, so wouldn’t it be a good idea for St. Pat’s to host an art show, auctioning off original student artwork to raise money for Gracie’s family and to raise awareness for Lyme disease.
The teacher asked if this idea was okay with me.
I could barely speak. My voice cracked and my eyes leaked, but I managed to give permission. I knew that I had been on the prayer list. When I’d given a presentation on Lyme disease last spring, many of the kids had hugged me and told me they’d been praying for me. But I had no idea that the teachers were on their knees, lobbying for my healing as well, and trying to figure out a way to help our family. My heart overflowed. She explained that she would be putting Emily and Gracie in charge of the art show. Yes, at just ten years old, they would be chairing their first event. I smiled at the thought.
Emily was then brought into the room, and she pitched her idea to me over the phone, not knowing that I’d already granted permission. She sounded so grown up, so confident. I marveled at her empathy and optimism.
That evening Gracie came home bouncing with happiness. We discussed ideas for different art projects and snack options. She wanted to start making a to-do list, as she’d seen me do countless times. The child was ecstatic. Then she nonchalantly said, “You know how you and Christie used to always to do stuff for the high school together? It’s like me and Emily are the new Jena and Christie.”
I blinked. I smiled. And I thought she did notice.
Before Lyme, just a few doors down, Christie taught health while I taught English. We often wound up working together on various school improvement and student recognition projects. We worked hours beyond the final bell, quietly trying to improve the climate of our school. She was usually the leader, and I was generally a minion to her ideas. No matter how busy I was, I couldn’t tell her no. After all, her missions were always about doing good things for people. How could I resist?
Although we are the same age, Christie and I did not grow up together. We met while substitute teaching in this same school. Our colleagues even threw us a shared baby shower in the classroom now between us. She was pregnant with Emily and I with Gracie. They were born just ten days apart. Christie was hired full-time in a neighboring county, but we kept in contact. A few years ago, she had the opportunity to return to our school, her alma mater, and we’ve been partners in crime ever since.
Our daughters have grown up together. Softball, gymnastics, soccer. They’ve been on the same team for most extra-curricular activities. We have annual outings, like Disney on Ice and the state cheerleading competitions. This year we took the girls to Pittsburgh for their 10th birthday, spending the night shopping and visiting the museum.
Together, we are one heck of a mom. It’s much easier to keep up with your child’s copious amounts of homework when you can text your best friend to compare notes. Together, we’ve navigated this whole parenting a daughter thing, which has become more and more challenging as they grow into sassy preteens. While Christie and I didn’t grow up together, we have learned to adult together.
So for Gracie to mention that she and Em were the “new Christie and Jena” filled my heart with hope. She had observed our dedication to our students and colleagues. She did remember stuffing all those gift bags so that every student would have a Christmas gift. She understood the hours Christie and I had traded with our children for these projects were important. She had been watching us try to make our world a little bit better.
And it had stuck.
As I’ve listened to Gracie over the past month chatter about all they are doing to prepare for this art show, I have smiled so many times. While I appreciate the fundraising intent of the event, my joy is a result of what these children are learning from it. Compassion, creativity, leadership, organization, loving people through dark times.
After all, the lessons learned from this project may be more important than the factoring worksheet we did for homework last night. Not once in my adult life have I had to use prime numbers, but praying for direction and practicing kindness?? Every. Single. Day.
Today, I am thankful for a little blonde haired, blue-eyed girl who had the desire to help her best friend’s family and for the teacher who not only listened to her idea, but empowered her to act on it.
More than anything, I am grateful my daughter attends a school that teaches students so much more than just the core subjects. I unknowingly modeled some of those same lessons, and, amazingly enough, she was paying attention. Thank God for that.
And if you are a local reader, I personally invite you to the St. Pat’s Art Show. It’s just a week away. I know a lot of students who are eager to showcase their artwork and two little girls who are expecting a big turnout for their first event.
Remember, it may not seem like it, but our children really are watching and our actions teach them what words won’t.