I don't generally tell stories that I do not feel are my own to tell, but this one hit me harder than most and due to whatever my role is in the life of others, I was affected. I was triggered. I'm not writing this post for anybody to sympathize with me or for anybody to feel sorry for me, because in hindsight, I'm okay, but my mental was thrown off in the worst way yesterday and I need to write it out. What you do next is up to you, but if you're interested in my heart as an educator, please, keep reading.
I found out, randomly, yesterday, that a student in the after care program I work with passed away while I was in Haiti. As this tragic event occurred four months ago, everybody else I work with has had their time to process and to accept that he's gone. I won't say his name because I don't know how his mother would feel.
At first, I thought, "What?" Students don't die. Kids don't die. He was six and even though he had his troubling days and didn't always listen, he was a loving and sweet little boy. He was misunderstood, and sometimes, the misunderstood kids are the ones labeled as "bad," or "nuisance."
I broke down quietly and quickly, but headed right back to work. I called my mother for a couple of minutes and pushed all of my feelings deep down inside of me. I continued on with my day. However, after leaving my job, I felt guilty. He deserved more than me continuing on with my day, but at the time, the kids in front of me had deserved my care. Either way, somebody was losing and I felt terrible.
On my way home, I cried... a couple of times. I kept asking myself if I should ask God "why," but what was the point? There is no point in questioning God, especially when it won't change the outcome. He's gone, and rather I understand or agree, it won't change. So instead, I prayed for healing and peace, not only for myself, but for the family and those involved as well.
I watched videos and looked at pictures all night, crying on and off. I broke down again. I have this one video of him telling me his favorite joke and I realized that he wasn't just a student in the program. Rather it was one time, two times, or 100 times, he had been in my car. I had driven him home. I had eaten pizza with him and his mother and watched as she drink a beer and listened as she told me about what an awful day she had. I started to understand him a little more that one specific day, and I had several other bonding experiences with him in a short amount of time.
This past weekend, I saw a little boy that looked just like him from behind. They had the same structure and same bright, hair color. I smiled that day, expecting to see him the coming Monday, but things just didn't turn out that way.
I started to think that I was broken. I cried on and off for hours, wondering why I felt so affected. Why was I so hurt? Had everybody else hurt like this when they heard the news, or was it just "very sad?" I thought and I thought and I thought, but nothing made me feel any better.
I realized then just how critical my role was. For the past three years, I've worked so closely with so many children. I've worked with them in so many capacities; after care, summer camp, babysitting, nannying, program director, teacher, etc. I work with kids every day and I watch them grow. I'm there when they're happy. I see when they're sad. I go through their pains and stresses with them. I'm there when they celebrate birthdays. I'm at their recitals and practices. I'm at family dinners and functions. I put them to sleep. I cook them dinner. I teach them. I tutor them. I become so invested with my children that they become just that, my children. No, not every child I meet, but a number of them.
As an educator, it is literally my job to invest in them because most others won't. It is my job to show them love that some children may be missing at home. It is my job to pour into the youth and mold them into the future. The children are our future!
I'm not sure what God's plan is, but mine is to keep loving all the kids I encounter. My plan is to continue being inspired by loving children like him. I'm going to keep taking them to get pizza and keep listening to their jokes. I'm going to keep making every child feel valuable and loved. I'm going to continue to be there for them in all the ways I know how to, even though I'm sad and I'm honestly afraid as hell. I'm going to be strong and keep educating. I'm going to be happy and pray for his family. I'm going to keep giving my heart even though I lose a little piece of me every time a child is broken. I'm going to be around to help build them and their families back up.
Be with me.
And to you, loving boy, I'm sorry. I'll miss you.
Living and Learning...
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