Yesterday was the final day before holiday break. I watched the clock with my breath held inside my chest the entire day. Anticipating the release that final bell would bring. The north has been unbearably frigid and for a week now the children have been cooped up inside, too cold to venture out for even 10 minutes at recess.
Time, as it is know to do, did indeed pass. At 3:30 you could see the ripples in the air as adults throughout the building released a collective sigh. While waiting for excited children to make their way onto buses and into cars that would carry them to wonderlands of Christmas adventure, I had some harsh words for a boy from a neighboring school who was banging on the door window of the bootroom, demanding someone let him in.
He was there to pick up his sisters (one of whom is in my class) and then escort them along the bitter 2 km walk home. I told him for his poor behavior he would have to wait for the girls in the alcove (outside) and that he should be treating school property with a bit more reverence.
The tears were immediate. "I've had a bad day" and then the words that broke me, dropping from his lips like frozen cubes into a stainless steel sink. "I'm so cold." And I knew immediately it was true. With quick inspection his jacket had been passed down too many times. Long beyond being the right size a year ago, sporting a broken zipper on a front with no closure. Worn in spots to rayon only.
I called to the girls who were now waiting, to wait a little longer. The boy shivered inconsolably and uncontrollably as we walked down the hall. We have a room with the antidote to the secret pain and shame that too many children experience. I crossed my fingers, silently conjuring up a remedy in the right size.
As I opened the crate I could feel my heart beat in my throat. And there it was. It didn't look as though it had ever been worn. It was better than the right size, as it still had room for the winter growth spurt that boys are known to take. "How does it feel William?" I whispered in his ear. The warmth filled us both, clinging to spaces between.
Somewhere in the span of five minutes I exchanges his tears for mine. And stoked dying embers of miracle apathy with pieces of tinder dry wood. All is not well with the world. Sometimes it is horridly out of balance. But the smallest acts can fill up rooms and people and schools and communities. And that is how the world is renewed. And the heart is awakened.
Is the magic of Christmas the warmth we are able to provide another?