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Saturday, March 29, 2014

They Taught Me 2

Lessons Learned

Their Courage, Their Honesty, Their Perspective, My Teacher

In the midst of IV’s, hospital gowns, doctors, nurses, therapists, and colorful artwork on the walls, there was a school right there in that enormous pediatric unit. Student-patients came faithfully to the hospital classroom every chance they had because keeping up with homework kept each one thinking forward to the glorious reunion with friends and teachers and coaches in the hometown schools they each longed for.  Having health and strength to attend school and participate each day in every part of school was indeed the hopeful dream of these student- patients.  A hopeful dream not recognized at all as such by those students who have never had to study and learn in the hospital school.  It’s so easy to take for granted things that are easy and good and ours, but things can change as the wind blows. Change, expected or unexpected, often serves to bring perspective.  These dear, brave student-patients longed for school. One particular day, I was asked to do bedside tutoring with a student-patient who wouldn’t come to the school; everything hurt and everything was wrong. She had spina bifida.  She didn’t want to talk, so we just sat that day and for the next few, as well. Homework was pointless, she asserted. Okay. Interested in singing? I ventured the suggestion without making eye contact. Stupid. Too loud. Silent sitting resumed. The next day, I offered, singing in sign language because it wouldn’t make any noise. With a combination of incredulity and hilarity and contempt, our first eye contact occurred. What? Come on, it will be fun, and I wrote this song for you. L-O-V-E, love is special, a song just for her. It worked. She loved it. We learned it and continued to sing it silently on my every visit to her room. When she got tired of singing it, she let me help her with homework.  Eventually, she agreed to come to the hospital school only to help me teach her song to the other student-patients. She thought it would make them happy and she was pretty certain I couldn’t teach it as well as she could. She was absolutely right.
She taught me about courage and honesty and perspective and connection and love and joy even in the pain. Her story and my song for her is one I have shared every Valentine’s Day since then with the students in my own classroom and is now on youtube to share with you.
She taught me.