The cars pull up, the children get out and go into the school building. Morning after morning, day after day. It seems simple. Inconsequential. Boring. Mundane.
This morning ritual part of my daily life this year. This incomparable year. In this year where each interaction with parents is rare. Casual chat with students is few and far between. This tiny ten minute ritual is balm. It is a ray of sunshine. It is drink to a parched soul.
These moments of gentle interaction may go unnoticed by the principal, perhaps even by most parents rushing to their day, but to me, this is sacred work. The ability to ease someone into their day, to transition these students from the safety and maybe certainty of their parents and caregivers, to their school day. A school day that all of us are constantly familiarizing ourselves with. Nine or ten of the staff line themselves up on the swooping long curve hugging the main front entrances to the school. In rain or shine, warmth (that’s rare) and today, deadly cold, we gather before school each day to perform this task.
As the cars come, the four of us with job alikes talk a little strategy, encouragement and inquiries. We greet each other as long lost compatriots eager for news from the front. Our new friends whose positions differ from ours chat away with us about recognize cars, backpack difficulties, wet hallways, stray masks, and all the minutia that drifts into those ten minutes. It seems like there would be so little… so little time to notice, to talk. So little to comment on. So little common ground between us. But as can be the case, the task brings us together connecting us in the work.
This mundane work and yet in moments, so valuable, so telling, so affirming, so enriching. In one moment, a new student may arrive. He is confused. His parents anxious. A sea of strange faces in front of a fortress and then a friendly face, peers into the car door. Good Morning! I’m…. Can I help you find where you’re going? The subsequent walk is full of chatty news and noticings of backpacks and tennis shoes, masks and headbands, introductions and pointing out of landmarks. Then just like that, a wave goodbye. Tomorrow, this place will be a little more familiar. That door opener will be a friendlier face. Those caregivers will be a little less anxious.
Every day does not deliver a new student. Some days just deliver a family rushing to the next place. A missing mask, a hastily packed bag, a breakfast not quite finished. A moment to say, No rush. Can I help with that? A moment where the collective exhale makes everything that may come next in this harried day slightly less so. A moment of compassion shared, trust exchanged, burden liften.
Sometimes drama ensues. Like all of us, young people occasionally aren’t having it. They don’t want Monday, or even Tuesday, Wednesday or Friday. Their sweater or their coat or their mask isn’t quite right. Their breakfast was forgotten. Their shoes are by the front door. In those moments, a gentle sharing of the responsibility for the transition. Fresh voices. Calm breathing. A crinkly eye smile. A gentle word. We can take a moment. How might I help? Friend, I am so happy to see you today. What do you think might be in store? Should we go in together and check?
Then, there is just the moments of happiness. A barking dog I notice every morning riding shotgun in the front seat. One girl always sporting that little extra sparkle in her tutu or her sparkle shoes or her hair. That cutie with the unicorn hat or that tiny kindergartener with the ENORMOUS backpack I’m sure he loves. How each child has his or her own pace, some rushing in not to miss a single minute. Others moving at certainly their own measured pace, not rushing into anything including this entrance to the day.
So today, I’m thankful these moments of joy. I don’t want to rush past them even when it’s below zero. I want to make eye contact and smile even when no one can see my mouth. I want to notice. Exude calm and gentle point these friends in the direction of a new day.