These Are The Days

Smart ~ Writer ~ Mom

His Safe Place

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.

Thankfully 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.


  1. I would be just like you in this situation!

  2. Oh Kim, that is heartbreaking. It’s so sad that he’s unable to voice his feelings. I hope the other kids don’t secretly tease him; that would certainly not make him feel like school is a “safe place”, as well-intentioned as the teacher was. I know you’ll just be thinking of him until next week. Maybe you can think of a small way to make Wednesdays a day he looks forward to a little bit. Really, the story is just so sad.

    • Kim

      November 13, 2014 at 2:31 am

      I don’t think he’s being teased. The teacher seems pretty vigilant (it’s a Catholic school). Just broke my heart a little.

  3. Things really stick with me too, and that can be hard. I bet your eyes have filled a few times since this experience. You are such a kind and compassionate person- that’s why things like this barrel over you, IMO. Lucky kids to have you around! xo

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