Earlier this week, a few of my colleagues and I had occasion to observe short segments of several classes being taught by some of our adjunct instructors at our Wamego regional center. One of those was a math class that was scheduled to begin at five p.m. that afternoon.
When we entered the room a few minutes early, several students were already seated and the teacher was doing some review work on the board. As we filed in, we couldn’t help but notice two small children seated at one of the long tables beside a woman whom we presumed to be their mother.
The little boy looked to be about five and his sister about three. Both were coloring but the little boy was already fidgeting. I looked at the middle-aged woman seated behind them for any expression of annoyance; I saw none. Still I wondered how long it would be before the children became a distraction for the adult students in the room.
A few minutes later, a young man appeared in the doorway and walked quietly in without looking at the teacher. “So,” I thought, “you come in late without a book, a notebook, or any indication whatsoever of any preparation for class.” As I watched, though, my initial impression began to change dramatically. He wore a blue industrial work shirt with a name patch above the pocket on the left. His clothing, face and arms were streaked with dirt and grease and his expression, body language and manner of walking clearly conveyed a man who had worked a full shift on a long day.
He walked silently to the third table. As he knelt beside the small children, their faces brightened; the boy grinned broadly and the little girl beamed at him. He began quietly gathering up their crayons, books and markers and sliding them into a pack. As he was kneeling and busily stuffing away their belongings, the little girl, tiny and bright-eyed looked up directly into his face. Without a word, she kissed her fingers and then patted her kiss onto the side of his face.
I won’t presume to know what that simple gesture meant to him but I suspect that all the tiredness of a long day at the shop suddenly faded away and he knew that every moment of his life was worth all that he had done.
I do know that I felt as if God himself had just breathed on me.