Wil was having a challenging day last Thursday. I drove up to the school anticipating driving Wil home. When I walked into his resource room, Wil was seated in his chair with his feet flat on the floor. His torso was twisted toward the back of the chair, his head tucked down. He reminded me of a sleeping flamingo.
“Hi Wil,” I said.
“Hi Mom,” was his muffled reply.
Kristi Campbell, Wil’s paraprofessional, showed me two ornaments given to him by one of his Connect friends, Alyssa. Alyssa had made ornaments for all the students in the resource room. She had delicately hand-painted snowy landscapes, elves, and other holiday pictures on circles of wood. Each circle of wood had a string inserted into it for hanging. Attached to each string was a felted red bow.
“Wil, these are very special ornaments. We’ll have to find a special place on our Christmas tree for them.” Wil lifted his head and a smile spread across his face. That is one of my favorite traits of Wil’s – his joy always finds a way to break through the surface.
“Do you want to go home?” I asked. He nodded. “Ok, let’s get your things and thank Mrs. Campbell.”
Wil came out of his reverie and stood up. He loves Kristi Campbell (as does our entire family) and wouldn’t miss an opportunity to say good-bye. Another educator in the resource room walked over to the microwave to heat up her lunch. Wil watched her.
“Are you hungry?” Kristi asked. Wil nodded. The lunch period had just started so Kristi and Wil talked it out and decided to head to the lunchroom. I hung close on the way to the lunchroom, just in case Wil changed his mind. Wil’s friend, Lila Harvey, was seated at a lunchroom table with her friends. She is a smart girl and knows Wil very well; so I’m sure upon seeing me, she pieced together what was happening. She waved Wil over to their table.
“Lila!” Wil said. After that, I doubt Wil even remembered I was there. He joined Lila and their friends at the table. Wil went on to have a Rockstar afternoon.
As I walked out of the school, feeling thankful for Kristi and Lila, I was reminded of another school morning exactly one week before. It was the first day back to in-person school after restrictions had been lifted for Kindergarten through 8th grade (Wil is in 8th grade). With the new re-opening, only the front door leading to the office was unlocked. When I dropped Wil off at the circle, he ran up to one of the many front doors that are typically unlocked in the morning. Discovering it was locked, he moved on to the next door. Locked. I pulled around the circle into a parking spot to be sure he got in. As I did so, I saw a taller boy walking up to the school. He motioned to Wil and opened the door that led to the office. The tall boy lifted his arm up high on the door to hold it open, and Wil walked under his arm through the door.
Over time, I’ve realized that inclusion has many meanings. And from what I’ve observed, so do kindnesses. Whether done in big or small ways, they all have great meaning in their own way.