I was teaching 5th Grade Language Arts until the last four days before I went back out of work on disability. My job entailed teaching Grammar and Writing. Before the first of five surgeries, I hosted Writing Contests every couple of months to encourage students to produce better quality essays and stories. The prizes I gave averaged out to a cost of between $75.00 and $125.00 total outlay per contest on my part. But, I felt like the children would gain the pride of being paid for their Writing. I wanted them to feel like their writing was valued. So, it was definitely worth the expense. And, I got some extremely good stories from children who had not liked to write in the past.
But, the first place paper from one such contest I hosted on the topic of disability has been on my mind for the last few weeks, because I now find myself in a disability situation...ironically. So, I found the winning disability essay. And, I cried reading it all over again. I had loved it when I first received it. The little girl had shown such sensitivity to the idea of the possibility of herself having a handicapped Mom. She had expressed so much acceptance and love for her Mom, even if she were to be in a wheelchair totally paralyzed; unable to say "I love you," anymore. I asked them what it is about their Mom that made them love her, and of course what it is that makes you love anybody beyond the selfish reasons. I asked them to imagine if she were to be suddenly in a wheelchair, couldn’t walk, talk, use her arms or even brush their hair. But, she could hear them, and see them. The idea in my mind when I assigned the topic had been human worth, what is it about a person that makes them loved? Is love necessarily performance based. I was trying to put my finger on what it is that we love about somebody when we love them for themselves.
Ironically, I found my answers for myself, now that I am a handicapped Mom and wife. Looking back, and reading these words of love and acceptance that I think I paid an mp3 player for; I feel like I have gotten an extremely high return. As I've always said, children are my reversed heritage. I invested myself heavily in my students for 30 years. The dividends are just starting to come in now.