The room was filled with muted sounds of shuffling paper, scissors, and student whispers. The hallways and classrooms carried that familiar schoolish smell of crayons and glue … and for a moment I was transported to my own elementary school experience. I remember my young years so clearly; and I especially remember being grateful for kind teachers who slowly, collectively, ushered me into the world. Mitch was also blessed with kind and thoughtful teachers – and that made my heart glad … for under an educator’s care was my most valued treasure.
My heart began to pound as I peered through the window of the door and saw little Mitch working hard on his class assignment. I was proud of the good boy that he was.
As I began to open the door, the handle made a mechanical clank and Mitch immediately turned to see if it was me. You see, we had a father-son lunch planned, and I had in my hand a paper bag filled with his favorite chicken nuggets. At the same time, I carried in my heart more love than my soul could contain.
I’ll never forget the look on my son’s face when he saw me walk into his classroom. I almost burst into tender tears. “Hi, Dad,” Mitch said with a whisper, “are you still going to go to lunch with me?”
I kissed his forehead, “Yes, Mitchie. I have been looking forward to it all week.” Mitch smiled and said, “Me, too.” Mitch was designated Student of the Month and was highlighted as both a student and a young boy with interests and hobbies of his own. It made him feel special to be recognized for who he was.
Before we went to the cafeteria, Mitch was excited to show me the projects he’d worked so hard to complete. In his folder, I could see papers with layers of light pencil marks made faint by erasers. Evidence he was trying to get things right. My heart was softened to see my child try so hard. I thought to myself, “Oh, son … you are so sweet. Dad is trying to do the same thing.” I was grateful Mitch used pencils and erasers in matters of the soul. He was so quick to forgive when his father was impatient or made a mistake and disappointed him.
I’m grateful for pencils and erasers in life. They allow us a chance to re-do things we didn’t quite get right. As we get older, we seem to give up pencils and erasers for pen and ink. Some people write in permanent marker and imprison themselves and others with their faulty judgment, borne of pride or narrow insights.
I admire children for their goodness and their innate ability to see with their hearts – because when they do, they see what really matters. They see others as good people, just trying to do their best in life. They write in their hearts with pencil and are quick to use an eraser.
As we left his classroom for the cafeteria, Mitch said, “Thanks for coming, Dad.” By this time, I had a lump in my throat the size of a basketball. I could hardly swallow, and my eyes were pooling with tears. For my little boy reminded me what goodness looked like, what it acted like, and how it sounded. I wanted to be more like him – and I vowed to set my set aside my pens and markers for pencils and erasers. Heaven knows I need more pencils than pen, and even more erasers.
We’re all students of life learning lessons at our own pace. Sometimes we’re teachers – but we’re always students.