Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ashley the Apostle

For the sake of the kids I work with, I've changed all their names in this blog.

She covers her head with her arms and buries her face into the table as to tell the rest of the world to leave her the f---alone. I can't though. I'd like to, and I wish my occupation, working with children, allowed me a bit of liberty to chalk an "L" next to the situation and actually leave her alone, but we have to leave for a field trip... in 10 minutes.

Ashley, accused of hitting someone, doesn't want to deal with me, talk to me, or look at me, so she blocks me out with a blanket of her own arms and a table. She's good at this. Very good at this. So good in fact, I feel like giving up, sitting next to her in the hall way of the daycare, repeating "Ashley, if you don't talk to me, we'll have to send you to the office"... but she doesn't care. She's seen the office. She's been punished before. Consequence doesn't scare her. I've watched her take authority over a kickball game in a matter of seconds without words, devistate a group of kids with the raise of an eyebrow, snatch the life from a smile, and give it back all in the same moment. Ashley is probably one of the smartest kids I know, which is why it's so hard to have words with her. Her complexity makes me question my adulthood, ability to converse with humans 20 years younger than me, and what the hell I'm actually doing repeating myself to despondent ears.

So, I sit. Two minutes pass, and she finally responds to my request to speak with her. She's in trouble, and she knows it... but again, not afraid. Every kid knows that hitting another kid is a big no-no, but consequence doesn't apply to the human heart. In the heat of the moment I've seen people throw punches, pull guns, dissolve friendship, abandon everything- whatever, this gal has a heart and knows what she's doing... I'm just not sure if I am.

However, she speaks... says she wants her mother, doesn't want to go to the office, understands what she did wrong although she disagrees with me... and I get it, or at least am trying to. Good thing for me, trying is good enough for her. Because all of a sudden it appears that maybe a lot of people haven't tried with Ashley, and me simply weathering a storm of silence is enough for her. Maybe, sitting and being open to listening is more an open forum than she's ever gotten at school or home. And maybe, I have more to learn from Ashley than the other way around. I'd like to believe the latter more than anything else, so I do.

She smiles and follows the rest of the class to the bus for the field trip. The blessing of working with children isn't in leading them towards what you believe is "good", "better", "moral", or even "right". The blessing is in their ability to detect bs. If we serve each other as reflections, we may see a lot of things we don't want to, but coming to terms with it is beautiful, redeeming, and ugly... all at the same time.

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