All of My Apples Are Under the Tree
I believe in our youth. I believe in their resilience. I believe children can overcome almost any obstacle that life throws before them, that they can survive difficult times, that they can become responsible and productive adults. I believe they can change the world.
I’m a school counselor. I came to counseling by default. My friend was looking for a way to get out of the classroom. She decided a degree in guidance and counseling was just the ticket. Since she did not want to go it alone, she talked me into going with her. She was quite persuasive. I started. She did not. In the end, she could not quite persuade herself. I finished, earned my counseling degree, and here I sit, in an office in a school “helping kids with problems” as they are wont to say. Before counseling, I was a Special Education teacher.
I am with kids every day. Some are bright and energetic, responsible and mature. You would peg these as the future leaders of America in a heartbeat. With some you hold your breath and pray. These are my kids. Not the sweet ripe apples on the tree but the bruised and battered ones on the ground beneath. Mine are the apples that are ignored, kicked out of the way, discarded as unusable. Mine are the unappreciated and unwanted.
But I marvel. Because, beneath the bruises, I still find sweet fruit. I find Jack, whose mother suffers from recurring bouts of cancer, whose father left home a long time ago, a home with spotty electricity, little food and less hope. But Jack gets up every day, washes with cold water, dresses in the same clothes he wore the day before, and comes to school. Jack is passing his classes. He wants to join the army.
I find Megan, whose mother is a meth addict in and out of rehab. Who has been harassed by a string of mom’s live-in boyfriends, one of whom allegedly assaulted her. Megan struggles in school, but she is the first to take the new kid, the special needs kid, and any other kid that needs a friend, under her wing. Megan wants to be a nurse.
I found Charlie, who had never read a book before he came to my class. He hated reading. That’s because he couldn’t read well. Charlie hated school, period. At the end of the year Charlie’s mother came for a conference. She told me that Charlie had gone with her to the bookstore several times. Each time, he bought a book that we had read together in class. When company came, he would bring out his books and proclaim proudly that he had read every one. His favorite was Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Charlie graduated with honors. He teaches English in an inner city school.
The best and brightest, the ones with the good parents, opportunity, and all the breaks, may be our future leaders, but my money is on the Jacks, the Megans, and the Charlies of the world. These are the kids that have looked adversity in the eye and triumphed. These are the kids who have experienced life at its worst, and survived to keep going another day. These are the kids that can truly teach us about life and how to live it. These are the kids who hope and see the light of the future. These are my apples under the tree.
I believe in our youth. I believe in their resilience. I believe that children, with encouragement and determination, can overcome almost any obstacle they encounter. I believe that they can change the world.
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