This I Believe

Vicky - East Hartland, Connecticut
Entered on February 11, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: integrity
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I believe people should say what they mean and mean what they say.

When I was growing up in rural West Virginia, I depended on people around me to be honest. If a relative said they were coming’ out to see us, then I expected a visit. Not in a month or two, but in a day or two. I can remember listening for the sound of a car as I played outside or sitting in the rocking chair at night and watching for a reflection of car lights. They had said they would come and I expected it. I wanted their company.

Then there were those relatives who promised they’d bring me back something from their trip. I would eagerly wait and wonder what thoughtful gift they were picking out for me. Finally, they would arrive more than happy to share their photos and adventures with us, but a present for me. There was none to be found.

As I got older, my expectations were dashed not by relatives but by friends…best friends. You know. The ones you shared your deepest, innermost thoughts with. The ones you bared your soul to who promised never, ever to tell anyone what the two of you had just discussed. I remember getting off the school bus and heading to my locker only to be intercepted by some minor acquaintance who suddenly knew my strongest desires. Overnight this person find out who the love of my life was, how long I had been in love and how desperate I was to get him to notice me. How could this happen? I didn’t share this with anyone but my best friend – who promised she would never tell! I meant it when I promised her I’d keep her secrets. I was somebody people could trust so I expected the same from them.

The cycle began again with my own children. I promised myself I wouldn’t do that to my kids. Other grownups did, however. Some adult friend or relative would promise to take my children hiking or to a movie or promised to bring them back a tee shirt from some vacation destination or business trip. Then my children eagerly waited until the next visit only to discover that particular individual was not going to pull through. I could see the hurt on my children’s faces because they had believed in those adults. Why would someone say it if they didn’t mean it? I would try to explain to my children that some people just liked to say what they thought others wanted to hear – whether they really meant it or not. And my children just had to accept that’s the way it is with some people.

Now, I am an elementary school teacher. One hundred and eighty-one days of the year, the smiling faces of eight and nine year old children enter the classroom – open-minded and ready to learn because they trust me. They believe that I will be honest. They believe that I mean what I say. And I have no intention of letting them down.