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A Beautiful Reminder

(almost full moon rising yesterday evening…)

Recently, a beautiful reminder came my way…

I work as a substitute teacher for the school district in my area. This affords me a great variety of experience, as one can imagine. Presently, I tend to work mostly with the high school population, and occasionally the very little ones. But, all levels of pre-K through 12th grade are available with this particular employment. This is wonderful and fortunate.

Yesterday I worked with the population described as students with intellectual disability in a high school setting. From what I understand, this is determined by the IQ established for the student. Below a certain number qualifies the young person to be in this particular program.

It is a privilege to work with these young people. It really is like entering a different universe. Some are basically nonverbal and others can communicate in a very limited fashion. Actually, there is quite a broad spectrum of behaviors and abilities to be encountered.

One young fellow has the most beautiful green eyes. I complimented him on this feature. I noticed him, at one point, sitting and humming to himself; a contented smile on his face. Another boy delighted in certain mischievous behaviors, which delighted us. And. this same fellow very much enjoyed the rocking chair, when available; acknowledged as a treat after doing the necessary work. And another young man, with what appeared to be Downs Syndrome, endeared with both his occasional stubbornness as well as glee.

The students are met where they are, and instruction proceeds. They are offered the dignity of school learning wrapped in an intelligence and a deep care. It is truly a vocation for those who perform this service.

I am, in no way, attempting to romanticize this situation, by the way. Due to an understandable frustration and whatever might be happening in their home lives, these students can occasionally act out in inappropriate ways. (Well, one could say this about the general student population, as well!) But, the work continues in attempting to provide an education and care to each of them.

Yesterday, as we were walking down the hallway with the students to their next class, I was chatting with one of people who works there full time. A lovely woman, she was describing how she finds herself laughing during the day. She added that she certainly was not laughing at anyone. This was clear. My take was that it was more just about how life presents on this planet, that it can delight no matter.

And then she proceeded to describe how people think this is all real. (Life here on this planet.) But that it’s really an illusion.

I found myself stunned by this unanticipated profundity. I sensed she really saw the sweet absurdity of how we proceed, as humans. I sensed she saw how we take ourselves so unnecessarily seriously. And, in no way, did I feel her awareness denied the difficulties that life on this planet can present, nor the commensurate compassion these might inspire. Nor, did it lessen her dedication to the task at hand, to her work; rather quite the opposite.

She exhibited a certain joy and lightness, honoring the moment and what presented. This awareness could only enhance her service.

So I can say one never knows the liberating wisdom that will come ones way in the midst of a work day, or any day for that matter! Walking down a school hallway yesterday, I was granted just that.

Annie Kiyonaga

Oct. 20, 2021

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