Monday, December 10, 2007

Christmas Fun

I realize I haven't posted any updates in a while, but I am still working toward my goal. In fact, just last week I cleaned out my "room of purgatory." I loaded up 4 or 5 boxes of miscellaneous stuff, along with 4 or 5 boxes from my mom (I'll explain her stuff in a minute), and took it all to ...

the elementary school library!
I know, that makes no sense whatsoever, seemingly no sense.

Each year, at least since I've been in Wendell, the elementary school has a "25 cent Christmas Store." Students can come in to the library and buy Christmas gifts for twenty-five cents.

Beginning early in the school year, the librarian collects anything teachers (and parents) bring in: left-over garage sale stuff, I cleaned out the basement and don't know what to do with this stuff stuff, this was in the garage when I bought the place 13 years ago stuff, I have a closet full of stupid gifts that other people gave me for wedding gifts that I never opened stuff, and any other stuff people might have. The last week of school, before Christmas break, Carol and her daughter Jackie (along with a lot of help) arrange all this stuff ...

At this point let me clarify "stuff." At some point these objects become treasures. Exactly when that is ... hard to say. Is it when a student actually buys it? Is it when I realize that it no longer belongs in my house but should be cluttering up *ahem* I mean filling another person's house with love? I don't know for sure, but at some point the old adage becomes truth: One man's trash is another man's treasure. Now back to your regularly scheduled blog.

... on the tables and counters all over the library. There is almost anything you can imagine (that might be worth 25 cents). Students are allowed to come in and purchase anything they want; each item is only 25 cents. While I'm sure that some kids come in to purchase things for themselves, there are a number of students who come prepared with lists. I have happily and discreetly watched them walk around the library, list in hand, checking off people's names when they have found the perfect gift. "Gramma, grampa, mom, dad, my little sister (even though I know she won't get me anything), my big brother who's at college, and my cousin."

I recognize in their eyes and face the pride they feel at being able to find the right gift. And even the poorest of kids can find a quarter. For the one's who can't find even that amount of change, a few quarters always seem to appear at just the right time. (God bless the anonymous giving of teachers.)

I see them learning the value of what they have, prioritizing their meager funds to make sure they don't miss anyone, knowing that there have been Christmases that they were forgotten.

If I might digress another moment. Today a teacher brought me a copy of a student's paper. On the worksheet the student was asked to use "special" in a sentence. At the top was the definition: Special - not like others, more than ordinary. The student had written, "I am not special like others." I wondered if maybe they had simply placed the "not" in the wrong place, but the teacher had asked. The student believed that although other students were/are special, this student was not among that group. I encouraged the teacher to continue doing what she is doing - making her students feel special everyday.

It's okay to feel like I'm not special. I teach my students that all feelings are okay, all feelings. If they feel unimportant, invisible, not special, who am I to tell them they are wrong. Well meaning parents often contradict their children, invalidate their feelings by saying things like, "Don't say that honey. Of course you're special." The kid hears, "You're feelings are wrong. You should listen to someone else other than yourself." How horrible is that to tell a child who is already feeling badly?

Instead, I try to validate their feelings, then remind them that I think they are special. Even if they don't believe they are special, I do.

During graduate school I learned so many interventions, techniques, responsibilities, etc. I have discovered the true purpose of my life as a school counselor. Over the past three years (sometimes I can't believe it's been that long and sometimes I can't believe it's been that short) my true, real job has been revealed. My task as a school counselor is simple. I strive every day to make sure that kids know I believe they are special, unique, valuable, worthwhile people.

Even if nobody else in their life - including themselves - believe in them, I do.
Even if nobody else in their life hugs them, I do.
Even if nobody else in their life believes they are capable, I do.

By focusing on this one task, I have received immeasurable reward. Today, I tried to remind this teacher that she also has this task. Of course she is required to teach reading, writing, math, science, manners, rules, etc. But her main task is to make sure her students know that their teacher believes in them. This teacher does that; I have seen the evidence.

WOW that was a huge digression!

Back to the store ...

Kids come in and buy for their list of recipients. No adult purchases are allowed.

I took in some things that are obviously worth more than a quarter. But they were items/objects that needed to come off my list. I donated an airpopper, a mixer, a blender, some dishes, and some miscellaneous utensils. My mom donated some art supplies, paper, stamps,
serving platters, and lots of other treasures.

Although these things are worth more than a quarter, look at how many people win.
I win because I eliminate things from my list.
My mom wins because she eliminates stuff from her basement.
The kids wins because they get a great gift, for only 25 cents.
The gift recipient wins because they receive a gift that the kid would never have been able to afford.
The school wins because the money raised during the sale goes for some great projects around the school.

The 25 Cent Christmas Store is a win-win-win-win-win situation. How often does that happen?
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