Last Friday, I had the wonderful experience of participating in career day at the school my older two children attend. It was the first time I was ever able to sign-up for a career day, and to be honest, I wasn't sure Gracie's Gowns would really fit into the S.T.E.M. focus of the career day the school had planned. The coordinator welcomed my participation with open arms, and looking at the list of presenters from all the classes, we were the only nonprofit organization in participation.
Second graders are simply intrigued by everything, their attention spans are still a little limited, but if you can catch it, they will stay captivated. They wholeheartedly the world is full of wonderful people, good things happen all the time, and everyone wants to save the world from every form of evil present. They see adults as their heroes, their protectors, the ones they are to learn how to be a great person from...they see each person for who they truly are on the inside and value the little things most adults take for granted. The one class was asked to describe with one or two words what qualities they thought I personally had in order to make hospital gowns for children who are sick and in the hospital. Repetitively, the words kind, nice, talent, love, and caring came up. The one that caught me off guard was "special" followed with "unique." Hands down, at any given point in time, I don't consider myself special or unique, I will typically describe myself as a down-to-earth, average person, who just wants to make a difference with the skills I have been given. But to these kids, not only is our mission special and very different, it reflects the special person I am to do it. Lesson one was learned after just the first class of kids, and I talked with almost 200 students and their teachers that day.
I don't typically even talk to my own children about death and dying, but with having chickens, wild rabbits, a duck and even family members who have died...it is something they do know about and remotely understand. No, I didn't intend to talk about this topic, but once or twice the question was asked if any of the children in the photos had died. Truthfully, I desperately wanted to say "next question" and move on, but my facial expressions are as clear as crystal. When I told them yes, they al expressed how sad that was, that they are happy they aren't sick anymore, but wondered why a doctor couldn't fix them, like the doctors fix their own illnesses and boo-boos. Several of the classes had at least two or three children that want to become doctors and save lives of sick children or people in general...they see a need, they want to fulfill it. I pray their dreams come true.
Not once did I hear a child make fun of a child in the photo album I brought to the school of our heroes, not once was there a "that's weird" or "she looks ugly." Nothing of the sort was even mentioned. Rather quite the opposite of what I was expecting, they wanted to know what made these children sick, if they were able to go to school, how did they learn if they were in the hospital all the time, does cancer always cause a child to lose their hair, why can't mommy kisses make them feel better to go home, are they able to dance or play baseball, do any of them live in our area, and many other questions along those lines. They wanted to know how they could help, if I gave sewing lessons, could they give their old toys to the hospital that they didn't play with anymore, could they send money to us, could they make cards for the children, when would I have a building they can come to and help make gowns...these 7-9 year olds wanted to change the world for each of the children in my photo album.
I was able to witness peer modeling at its best throughout several of the classes, 1:1 aids working with a student, and what grabbed my attention the most was seeing one third grade girl help her classmate who is blind make sure her chair was pushed in and her walking aid was pointed in the right direction. She didn't do a thing for her, other than be there...be the reassurance, the extra bit of guidance, and to learn that this girl is always there for her classmate, every day, whenever it is needed was just amazing. They were inseparable, they inspire each other...one of the very things we lose as we become adults because we are too busy trying to get ahead of someone else, trying to be the best there is, we forget that every action, every word, every decision can either inspire or tear someone else apart.
This quote is one of my favorites, and it is one that I passed down to the children I talked to last Friday whether they fully realized it or not. Each of us has a gift, when we realize what our gift is and can use it to benefit others...that is where we truly find our purpose and place in this world. And if they took nothing else from my presentation, I hope they understand how much they inspired me to continue the mission of Gracie's Gowns and to really start making a difference one gown at a time.
A big thanks to Sarah of There's No Place Like Second Grade for letting me use her photo from her blog for this posting - she is an amazing teacher, one that has truly found her own gifts and is using them to change the lives of her own students, while inspiring teachers across the globe to do the same.