Saturday, October 15, 2005

first grade confessions


I had the privilege of observing a child in their school this week, and I spent a few hours watching the typical routines of the classroom. I was a little surprised at the amount of information that some of the kids shared with me.

I love talking with children. They interest me, generally far more than adults do. What I like best is that there can be gaps in the conversation and you can drop a subject or pick up a subject easily. I think I also appreciate the eye contact that children give me - which is generally more than adults do. Lots of adults don't stop to notice that kids are really good at visually attending to a conversation. I think they are often too busy talking to other adults, or they are above the eye level of the kids, or just too preoccupied to notice.

Anyway, Rachel had me enraptured. She is one of the children in the class, and her eye contact was just so wonderful while we talked. I also caught her studying me several times during the day so I would smile at her. Because she is just a kid, she wasn't embarrassed, and she smiled back at me.

While eating lunch (in a relatively quieter environment and away from the commotion) I started interviewing the kids. I asked Rachel to tell me about her family.

"My Dad is in jail," she plainly revealed, before going on to tell me about her siblings. "And my older sister just had a baby so she has to go back to school and graduate, but she will do that next year." She went on and on, telling me about her siblings and her mom who has to work all the time to pay the bills, and how she loves being the baby of the family.

Because there are fewer social rules when talking to kids, I just plainly asked her to tell me more about her Dad. He has tattoos, and he apparently likes Def Leppard. "He went to jail because of 'bad touching' with my sisters. But he didn't do it to me. My sister saved me from that."
There really wasn't much else for her to say about it, so then we started talking about other things.

As beautiful little Rachel talked about her favorite zoo animals and tried to teach me some grade-school handclapping game that little girls enjoy, I prayed to God that time would freeze. Things are ok for her now, I thought. But with a single mom struggling to make ends meet and with her older sisters being sexually active and having babies and with having lived in an abusive home and with not having a Dad there just seems to be a lot to overcome.

So this week I prayed for first grade to last forever, because I don't know how long Rachel's innocence can hold out on its own.

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