Receiving an “A” in Kindness

November 16th, 2008 by Ann

I know a man, Jim, who’s a 4th grade teacher. At the end of the school year last June, he casually mentioned to a group of friends some things that have stayed in my mind and heart over these last months. He was talking about the requisite achievement tests, assessments, reports to the district, reports to the parents and the paperwork that are all part of the end-of-the-year procedures expected of teachers. He had just completed all of these reports and wanted us to know something.

Now, I’ve heard Jim talk about his class on a number of occasions. His eyes veritably twinkle as he tells how, in September, the kids are sort of - kids. And then by June, they are taller, more confident, more not so kid-like. His love for his calling, as well as for his charges, simply shines through. Every time I hear him mention his class, I’m struck with how I hope that every single one of his students’ parents understands how fortunate they are to have him in their lives.

On this particular day, he felt compelled to share with someone something that no commentary, no assessment, no form that he has to complete ever, ever asks for. Because he thought it was something important enough for someone to know, he wanted to report to us, friends sitting around, that the end of this school year, as so many others, found his students kinder, gentler and softer to each other than they had been at the beginning of the school year, and that, from his vantage point, it appeared that their souls seemed to be in pretty good shape.

I guess the school district will always stay fairly clear of broaching the subject of assessing hearts opening and compassion growing. But I love that Jim cares enough to notice and wants to tell someone news that has nothing to do with scores or academic progress. For honestly, doesn’t the state of our children’s spirits and their ability to be loving human beings merit at least as much attention as just about anything else out there that is worth evaluating and tending to?

As autumn blusters its way into your life and you bundle yourselves against the chill, my hope is that your family feels supported in its journey of the heart. This is the journey that began even before you held your infant in your arms for the first time and hoped with every cell of your body that the world would look with a smile upon this small being. It is the journey that began with the pure and sincere hope that this place would be good and safe enough to appreciate having your child as part of it. The more we can remember that feeling, the more we will find ourselves working toward a world where compassion and open hearts are considered as precious as they truly are.

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