It was Thanksgiving Lunch at Maggie’s Middle school.
As my son, John stood next to Maggie the vice-principal of the school came to meet him and said, “You must belong to Maggie”. John smiled and said, “Yes I do!”
The vice-principal told John what a lovely girl Maggie is. That she has a wonderful attitude and is friends with everyone. She also commented on the fact that as a new middle-schooler, each student got to choose an elective class. It could have been art or music and indeed one of the options was to work with the mentally handicapped. And this was the choice that Maggie had made; to be a peer tutor.
After getting their lunch, father and daughter went to find a table. When they entered the room, there was a table at the end of the area with only four people seated at it. There sat two mentally handicapped children …. one with a parent and the other with a grandparent there for the Thanksgiving festivities. The four were sitting by themselves. No one else was choosing to join them.
Maggie said to her dad excitedly “Dad! Let’s go sit over there!” At the table, Maggie proceeded to eat her lunch all the while chattering non-stop with the two other children.
There were tears in the eyes of the two other adults at the table as they watched Maggie interacting smoothly with the children that are always left behind … visiting with the children that are normally not the chosen ones … Maggie willingly accepting the ones that no one wants to have lunch with.
When they had finished their meal and were leaving the table, Maggie excitedly said to them “I’ll see tomorrow OK? Bye!”
As John shared the experience with me, it didn’t surprise me.
I thought back to a few years ago when Maggie and her mom and I, all three went on a field trip together for school. There was one little boy in the class who tended to wander, and that day the teacher that was chaperoning chose Maggie to watch over this little boy.
The classroom teacher clearly knew something about Maggie that I did not. I thought that I would have to help her with this responsibility. I was completely wrong. Every minute of that day Maggie kept track of her charge and watched over him.
Maggie’s easy flowing actions at Thanksgiving lunch speak loudly to the world “Hey! Listen up everybody! We are all people here, people!”
I have no idea if her choices right now are leading her to a future profession. I have no idea if these experiences are defining moments in her life. What I do know is that Maggie is being true to herself right now! Maggie sees people as they are and allows them to simply be themselves. She definitely is not going with the crowd and choosing the ‘popular’ activities; if she were, the vice-principal would never have mentioned Maggie’s uncommon elective choice.
Nobody has to teach her to be true to herself – she’s not reading a self-help book to find her real nature – she’s got it!!!! She is where all of us who care-too-much-about-what-other-people-think, wish we were … right there … being herself … – Cathy
from the book The Beach I Walk On – Small Monumental Moments by Cathy Weber-Zunker