Every Wednesday I help serve lunch at the school my three-year old attends.
Between kindergarten and 8th grade, there are about 90 kids. It’s a small school and the class size dwindles with each grade level.
for the students I don’t have to cook anything. My job is to help get the pre-ordered hot lunches ready, sell fifty-cent snacks, and hand out wipes so they can clean their hands. It’s only an hour a week and it’s pretty easy to do.
Today was a little different.
This small, blond-haired, brown-eyed boy sat at a table against the wall away from his classmates. At first I thought he was in a time-out. But it was soon apparent that he was there of his own choosing.
He looked down a lot.
His left elbow firmly planted on the table. His hand propping up his sad face.
He used his fork to slowly push around his lunch: chicken nuggets, celery sticks and a few carrots.
I must have stared a bit too long because one of the other parents said, “His dad died unexpectedly a few months ago and he’s still having a really hard time.”
It turns out he also has autism. Social situations are difficult for him.
I can’t imagine what this little guy must be going through. They say he doesn’t talk very much and when he does, it’s minimal.
He asked me for one of the baby wipes to clean his hands and my eyes filled up a bit. I just wanted to scoop him up and tell him everything would be OK.
I’m absolutely horrible in situations like this. Emotions don’t come over me gradually. They hit me like a freight train. They barrel me right over the mountain to the other side with no time for stopping or catching my breath. I feel it all – and although I can stuff my emotions down like the best of them, I’m glad I didn’t do or say anything stupid.
At that point, his teacher came over and asked him if he needed anything.
“No, I’m fine.”
And then she said something I thought was pretty cool. She said, “You know, this is a safe place. So whatever you want to do or say is OK.”
He kept looking down, but I detected a small nod.
My eyes filled up again. And then my little shift was over.
And now I can’t stop thinking of this little guy.