Today, in the mundane act of getting my children delivered to school, I was overwhelmed by the amount of care that our community provides to our little ones.
Normally a little fairy named JJ takes care of this act of dispensing children; my major responsibility is feeding and making sure they are dressed in a seasonally-appropriate manner. (Let’s remember, 75% is a passing grade.) And then, at the end of the day, they are magically returned to me, typically in a state of hunger. This week, with the fairy tending to other people’s children in DC, I had the privilege/responsibility of this delivery duty.
As I pulled into my assigned drop-off lane, the principal – under coat and umbrella – greeted the children with a smile and helped usher them on their way. Normally when I consider the role and responsibility of a building leaders, I think of mentoring teachers and providing instructional feedback. I think of managing budgets and dealing with student discipline. There are state meetings and building meetings and administrative district meetings and forms, forms, forms. Also, there is the follow up with parents about action for student needs, times 500. This seems, to me, to be the work of school administration, to keep things moving ahead. But here, if not in all buildings, part of the work of leading is standing under an umbrella for an hour to get kids in the door. I have to wonder if, at times, it seems that we could make better use of this leader’s time by hiring out the task. Then again, perhaps opening car doors helps keep us grounded in the why we go to those administration meetings and balance building budgets. I’m not sure how or why the principal became the one who has to be patient with my fancy automatic doors that won’t open unless I’m in park, but I was grateful that someone cares enough to greet my kids on arrival. Without words, my kids know they’re welcomed here.
In leaving the drop-off, on previous days I turned right toward St. Pete’s and thought maybe that was a poor decision. Today I made the mistake of trying to turn left onto Warpole from Finley Street, so I had a solid 5 minutes of reflection on the art of child transportation (before I gave up, turned right and went around the block.)
While waiting, I encountered several buses finishing their work of fetching and delivering children. Now, make no mistake: on my list of Top 5 Jobs I Don’t Want is bus driver (along with kindergarten teacher). I watched these buses complete their given task of safely shuttling kids so they can have a day full of learning, no matter the transportational situation of their parents, and I was overwhelmed with gratitude. The drivers, and the school system, are providing for us. Perhaps normal people don’t see driving a diesel as a radical act of care and nurture, but to me this morning, it most certainly was. What a message this act can send to a child: you mean so much, and your education is of such value, that we will come and get you, and then take you home.
On my little around-the-block detour, I drove by the city police making his rounds. We can choose to think, “goodness, in this traffic? Now?” to his patrol route. But this morning, I thought, “Wow, our children are safe.” Beyond the district, the community is protecting our children, keeping drivers accountable to going slow, reminding us to proceed with caution, because these little feet and legs that might sprint across the street, they matter to us all.
Driving out of town, I see the lights on in the many homes of families doing what we do every day. Getting kids ready, reminding them to eat, finding the lost library book, arguing over appropriate footwear, just trying to get out the door. There is a oneness behind these common acts of care. We’re all the same, trying to love and live the best or maybe only way we know.
A community is much more than a town you live in or the people you repeatedly see on your path. It’s the fabric that holds the patterns you see, even when you see them so often that the patterns appear invisible. A community interweaves our roles, blending people and institutions, keeping the world moving forward. It’s the way the city police support the school, and the way the school supports the family. A community is in busing patterns and patrols as much as it is in the librarian’s face as she helps you find the free-to-you materials you want to borrow.
I’ve been appreciative of my community, especially when we fall into times of distress. But this morning wasn’t stressful. It was the regularity of it all that made my eyes water. These people opening doors, driving buses, and patrolling side streets do it every day, whether I recognize the need for it or not. They see what needs to happen to support learning and thriving in our community, so they make it happen, even when I don’t understand or acknowledge it. So much happens behind the scenes to make my rights realized, my privileges a part of my routine.