Today after dropping my teen off at camp, I stopped in a local diner for a BLT. While waiting for my sandwich, the waitress and I started talking. She felt unappreciated in the job she’s done well for fifteen years and she isn’t sure what is next for her. She said she found herself shopping for other people just to have something to do. “Have I got a job for you,” I said. I pulled out the JRA wish list, added my name and phone number and told her about the school. It turns out SHE was a kid who needed JRA, who had difficulties reading and sitting still. Her face lit up as she thought about shopping for a purpose and perhaps visiting the kids. She is ready for a new story.
Stories are powerful things. They connect us, heal us, hurt us, and tell us who we are. I see my job as Director of Just Right Academy as the Story-Hearer. Our children come to us with tales of pain, rejection, failure, and mixed in there, a lot of love. They wouldn’t be with us if someone hadn’t cared enough to research, call, scramble for the resources to send the child, and to tell her story. I love listening to their stories, and sometimes the interview looks like sitting around the table eating pizza and hearing about a sibling or a pet or a favorite vacation. Their stories are rich and filled with grace and tell me so much more than test scores and diagnoses do. While those give me important information too, I find the facts of a story often matter less than the truth of a story.
And the next part of my job is to find the Story-Tellers, the right people who can help each child write a new story: “You are competent. You can do math. You are smart. You can learn to read. You are fascinating, not weird. Let’s try it this way.” It means I’m looking for someone who knows about robots, who can help the young man who wants to make them. It means finding a portable basketball goal for the two young ladies who want their story to include the fact that they are good ballplayers. It means calling on artists and actors and puppeteers and scientists, all of whom tell new tales that might intersect with a child’s. It means creating a community where all feel safe and nurtured, where each child can trust enough to tell the truth about himself.
Are you ready for a new story too? Give me a call.