Today I was a substitute mom for a fourth grader.
In the school where we volunteer, the students spend a large percentage of the last five or six weeks of school on their Famous PA project. They pick a famous person associated with the state of Pennsylvania—people like Dan Marino, Taylor Swift, Molly Pitcher, Milton Hershey, Marian Anderson, Johnny Appleseed, the list goes on—and research their lives.
They learn to write and organize notecards filled with facts, and then craft a first-person essay as if they were their famous Pennsylvanian. Posters are created, props and costumes collected, and the essay memorized so they can deliver it well. A circular piece of construction paper becomes the button that will bring them to life as a “living wax museum.”
Today, they invited their families in to see their presentations as well as to eat donuts and to applaud as they received their graduation certificates.
I tried to remember if my parents ever came during the day for a program when I was in school. I’m pretty sure, not. There were no graduations except the one out of high school. The only events I remember were a Christmas program and a spring concert, both in the evening so the fathers could come. I can promise you that, unlike today, the fathers weren’t taking off work to come clap for us in elementary school. After all, some of them hadn’t even take off work to be at that child’s birth!
Today it’s very different—mothers and fathers, grandparents, too, because we live in a community where extended family is often close at hand. And it’s beautiful.
But not every parent can come. One of the teachers reminded me that she hadn’t been able to attend her own child’s program because she was shepherding other people’s kids through their program!
I get that it’s sometimes impossible, but it can be hard on some of the kids without a parent since it seems like everyone else’s parents are there.
Les and I come and serve as substitute parents if kids want one.
Today a little Mini-Me was sad to be alone. (Like me, Mini-Me is socially awkward and not always included in the girl groups she desperately wants to be included in.) And she was eager to sit with me. Mini-Me’s father was working, which she sort of understood.
Her mother was another story: “She told me she’s too busy. She’s always too busy for me.” That could simply be a child-centric perspective, but her teacher has confirmed it in the past. Mini-Me gets herself and a sibling up and ready for school every day. If she misses the bus, the mom just sends in a note the next day saying that’s why she missed school; she refuses to drive her in.
I was privileged to love Mini-Me today, to clap, to take her picture, to hug her, to tell her she was amazing and loved. It was a good day, a very good day.
In January I blogged about Bob Goff’s book, Everybody Always. I called it “the most important book I read last year.” I asked, “What does my love need to look like in action?”
This, it looks like this, like sitting with a fourth grader. Like a hug.
As Goff says:
“I reflect on God, who didn’t choose someone else to express His creative presence to the world, who didn’t tap the rock star or the popular kid to get things done. He chose you and me. We are the means, the method, the object, and the delivery vehicles. … Love is never stationary. In the end, love doesn’t just keep thinking about it or keep planning for it. Simply put: love does.”
Today, love did.
I don’t always make that choice.
“I get the invitation every morning when I wake up to actually live a life of complete engagement, a life of whimsy, a life where love does.”
So do I. And so do you.
Here’s to love, whatever it looks like lived out in our lives this day, and every day.