Sasha can Teach

Sasha greeted me this morning with a broad smile.  “My daddy told me I could stay home today for a special day.  I told him uh -uh -uh -no- no -no!”  Her black curls  and her finger shaking with syncopated attitude.  “I want to come to school!”she chirped.  I smiled back a greeting, wondering inwardly at her determination.  Sasha, at seven has already struggled too hard, too often and in too many places.  And still she keeps trying.

As Sasha takes a seat in her tiny plastic chair she continues, “I can have a special day- after school.”  I couldn’t help remember that time Sasha’s father had promised to pick her up early for a “special day”.  He never showed up sending the Sasha into a stormy spiral of disappointment that buffeted the whole class. The child’s  trusting face is beautiful marred only by the gray sleepless rings beneath her eyes.  Sasha resolutely opens her book.

Jorge and Mack are already reading at the table.  Mack stomps a  plastic braced foot with each word that he reads.  It seems like he is trying to control the words with the energy he usually reserved for walking. His bright blue glasses are bouncing along with the beat. Jorge is waiting for Mack to call out the words before giving it a try. As always he is presents himself as well groomed and silent.  Sasha is sitting in her best learner posture .  Her eyes gleam with excitement as she realizes that she can read the book.  I breathe deeply, hopefully. I worry about the gap getting wider and wider, wide enough for Sasha’s hope to fall in and away.  I should have taught her more by now, I think.

As I listen to Mack read, I see Sasha lean over to Jorge.  “Try that again. What can you do to help yourself,” she says. ” Jorge does that make sense?”  Fascinated, I turn to Jorge just in time to see Sasha expertly turn to Mack.  With a calm quiet voice Sasha places a hand on Mack’s shoulder. She  gives him a quick thumbs up and says, “You’re  doing a good job.” Sasha turns back to Jorge and says, “Good try, how else can you solve your problem?”  I grin when I hear Sasha’s words, my words.  She’s learning and she’s teaching.

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When No Means Yes

There are those times in life when no really means no. Like the times when children relentlessly negotiate for what they want.  It would be easier to give in, give up and encourage their whims.  So to do what must be done, I become resolute and the “no ” stops us both. The next moment, the one that follows is strangely without inertia. What comes next?

Then there are those times when no is a mind-numbing word that steals your breath.  When a heart stops beating and you want someone to start it again. “Doctor, Can you make it beat? ““No.”  What comes next? “No.”   At first I think everything and everyone  is motionless but only I am stuck. No.”   Maybe I should start over.  I want to start over.  But I can’t.  I can’t because it wasn’t me who said no.

We find life in-between  and maybe even in each no.   All journeys  require motion and rest. Every song contains notes and rests. Like music everything stops between each movement. Then there is another melody different and promising but informed by the first.  Perhaps there is another way.  “No.” I can’t start over. I see myself saying no to the silence and the stillness. The inertia is crushing me.  My lips form that word that has changed everything.  And then I say, “Yes…”