I have decided rather than narrate through my life, I will share vignettes that come to mind. They may or may not be chronological. Fortunately, today we start at the beginning.
When my mom was first diagnosed with cancer, I was a homeschooled 5th grader. I had been in public school up to that point, but my brother was being homeschooled and I thought it sounded like fun.
Grandma and Grandpa had been in town for Christmas and they decided to stay longer. Just because. At least that’s how it was communicated to us. It was sometime that winter that my mom found the lump in her breast. It was sometime in January when they told us.
It was so long ago, and I was so young, that I don’t remember what my exact reaction was. But being the emotionally irrational child that I was, the thing that really made me upset was that I had to go back to school (as an adult, I now understand that I was dumping all of my emotions onto this one specific change in my life, but at the time, I just didn’t want to go back).
I was reenrolled at Holladay Elementary in Richard Steen’s 5th grade class. He had been my sister’s teacher so I knew a little about him. From what I knew, one thing Mr. Steen highly valued in his classroom was timeliness.
When I came into the school, Mr. Steen pulled me aside and offered, “Anytime you need to go speak with the counselor, you may do that.” He was willing to give up his time.
During math on my first day, we reviewed long division. I had not yet made it to long division. I was overwhelmed, put my head on my desk and cried. I sat like that until the entire class went to lunch, then Mr. Steen sat with me one on one to teach me long division. He gave me his time.
(As a side note, I was so excited to have learned how to divide and find the answer with decimals that I would often create problems for myself to solve while listening to the lesson)
A few years ago, my sister and I had the chance to visit Holladay again. Mr. Steen came out of a staff meeting to say hello and began to cry. All those years he had kept a copy of mom’s obituary next to his desk to remember her by.
16 years later, Mr. Steen’s gift of time to me still stands out as an important moment of kindness. He probably has no idea.