Monday, July 21, 2014

A little Diversity

"I'm afraid of going to school in Georgia Mommy," Johnny told me the other day. I assumed he was just being a Mommy's boy and wanted to stay home with me or maybe he was just nervous about starting kindergarten.
"I think my teacher will be scary," he continued. "What if she has a brown face?"

Say what??

Did that really just come out of my kid's mouth?

I grew up in a household of complete tolerance and acceptance. Probably one of the most important things my parents taught my sister and me, was to love all people--regardless of our differences.

We lived a few miles from Baltimore City. My high school sat about 1 mile from the Baltimore City line. About half of my classmates were white--the rest were African American. I never gave diversity a second thought. It's just how I grew up. My dad was a principal of a school in a low-income community near the city. He spent countless hours and resources mentoring and almost fathering some of the less fortunate kids.

That way of growing up left a lasting on impression. Tolerance. Open-mindedness. And above all, an utter lack of fear of people who are different.

Living away from Baltimore for almost a decade, I think I almost forgot my roots. For seven years we lived in a small mostly white town in Central Pennsylvania and then for another two years we lived in an affluent suburb in Chicago. I had no idea what effect this lack of diversity had on our kids until Johnny's statement.

I couldn't blame Johnny for being nervous about people who were different. I blamed myself. We had never really talked about people's differences and he definitely wasn't exposed to different cultures.

This move to Georgia is going to be a good thing. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

In Limbo

Here we are in Georgia---in a beautiful little town called Alpharetta, about an hour north of Atlanta.
It's sunshine and blue skies every day. The peaches are sweet. And so are the tomatoes. Pretty much everything down here is sweet, including the people.

Every day is an adventure. We hike and swim, find delicious eats at the local farmer's market and we discover different parks and trails. We've been zip-lining and go-kart racing. We found an amazing nature center on the Chatahoochee River. And on one of our favorite hikes we skipped rocks and dipped our feet into a little creek.

Life is good in the south.

But, it's not our life...not yet anyway.
It's hard to feel at home when you're completely unsettled. We have yet to sell our house in Chicago, so we're living in a two-bedroom hotel suite. It's quite a change from our four bedroom house with a yard, but in a way, it's been simpler. We're all confined in a small space--two kids, a dog and Scott and me, and it's almost comforting in a way.

Still, it's not home. We're in limbo.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

A Ray of Hope

Sometimes parents just aren't enough.
We love our kids so immensely, but we can't always give exactly what our kids need. That's hard to admit, but it's true, and I find this especially true with Julie---my strong-willed, unpredictable little girl, who is still somewhat of an enigma to me. She is loving and caring and angry and overjoyed and sad--all at once.

This upcoming move to Georgia has been especially hard on her. She has found her place here in Chicago and she doesn't want to leave. "I wish June would just go on forever," Julie told me. We leave in July.

Just when life seems impossibly glib for a little girl, a speck of hope arrives. It was in the form of a letter from her favorite teacher, Mrs. Johnson.

I can't begin to describe this woman because I have never before met anyone quite like her. The day before first grade, Mrs. Johnson called to talk to Julie--a little pep talk of sorts. I knew this teacher would be someone special. And she was. She cared enough to get to know Julie and her strengths and weaknesses and she built her up like no one has before. Julie shined that year in first grade.

I have no doubt Mrs. Johnson cares deeply for all of her students, but we seemed to make a special connection with this special teacher. When she found out we were moving, Mrs. Johnson called to talk to Julie one night, and the next day, she sent Julie home with a little book about penguins (Julie's favorite animal), and a card saying how Julie was special. We gave Mrs. Johnson a bracelet as a parting gift.

The most recent letter arrived yesterday---three days before our move. In the letter, Mrs. Johnson described her summer trip to Israel, but the following paragraph brought tears to my eyes:

"Dear Julie,
I hope you are having a wonderful summer. I adore the beautiful bracelet you gave to me. It will be a treasure for the rest of my life. You will always have a special place in my heart. I know we will keep in touch with each other forever. I believe God has a special plan for you, Julie. I am honored that I was picked to be a little part of it. Remember to SHINE and BE THE DIFFERENCE wherever you go in life. I look forward to hearing about it.
Mrs. Johnson"