Volunteered for the last time with the pre-kindergartners this summer. There were many stories, one of them sad.
Before I got there, several local dignitaries from the mayor’s office, newspapers and television stations were doing interviews about the project. From what I was told, the ratio of kids to adults was about 1:1 which speaks of a crazy classroom. By the time I got there, the staff was a little frazzled. Nonetheless, they were laughing and smiling. This program is definitely a happy story.
My volunteering session started out routinely. A silly story was read to the delight of the children. After that, I was given the task of getting the kids to create stories in pictures about their favorite place.
The first boy described the beach. He smiled as he drew his family. He told stories about roasting marshmallows over the red and yellow fire. Sand was dotted on his picture. His mom wore a pretty dress. His dad swam with him in the water.
A girl told a story about going downtown with her mother and father. She liked the pizza and drew a happy, smiling family with bridges and doors in the background. She giggled as she put a silly costume on her dad.
But the third boy told a different story. It was Lawrence (name changed), the boy who I earlier had gotten to know.
He drew a bowling alley and arcade. He drew video games with balls dropping and flashers whirring. He drew a bowling ball and a machine that pushed the ball back.
When it came to drawing people, he started by drawing himself on one story of a two-story building. He put his dad on the top story. He separated himself from the rest of his family.
As he drew, he talked about how his dad was going to ground him when his dad found him. He spoke with an adult voice through clenched teeth. He repeated it, talking about himself in the third person and how he was going to get in trouble.
Sensing his frustration, or perhaps his confusion, I asked him if there were friends with him. He sketched his friend on a staircase coming down to him, but still apart. When he finished, he stood alone in the drawing.
Later, when asked about his behavior by the teachers, I said he had been very courteous and respectful to me. That earned him a sticker. He came over and asked me which sticker he should pick. I asked him which one he liked and he pointed to a sticker with the word ‘unique’ on it. He could not read it, so I asked him if he knew what ‘unique’ meant. He said no. It told him it meant special, because he was special.
I would like to say that he smiled, or hugged me. But sadly, before I left, he and another boy got in trouble for taking something that was not theirs. After he talked to the teacher, he got in line for recess with a downcast face. I waved goodbye, but he did not see me.
Lawrence shared something with me, or maybe with himself. It is hard to know if he really feels isolated, if his dad just yelled at him once, or if he feels like he is in trouble all the time. Maybe it was just a bad day. Maybe he tried to tell me something. Maybe it was nothing.
I hope his story has a happy ending. Because he is special.