Find the Potential
Although I am dating myself, I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed attending the old one-room schools of the past.
There Was Something Magical About
Being in one-room where there were kids across grades one through eight. It always seemed that there was something to keep your attention even if I had already finished my own work. It was also a time to observe other kids as the teacher would direct their attention to a certain grade other than my own.
I was fairly new to this one particular school since my parents only moved to the area one month before the end of the school year. By the way, this wasn’t unusual for my parents to uproot the family even though it could be near the beginning, middle or end of the school year – that’s just the way it was in our family.
Two Grades Behind Me
There was a boy who, as it turned out, was an orphan and was living and working for a small farming family. In fact, the entire school was filled with farm kids because that was where this school was located – in a farming community several miles from the city. He didn’t appear at first glance to ever be fully engaged in the school learning process; he would sit quietly, never seem to get any attention from the teacher, and would spend a lot of time staring out the window just behind him. The teacher, as I found out by asking other kids, had been at this particular school for many years.
Over the next few weeks, I got to know this boy while playing outside in the schoolyard playing baseball, or soccer. He was very athletic and very good at anything we played. He didn’t appear to have any problem whatsoever learning any new games or following along in any kind of team. I started to wonder why he did not seem to do well in school and why the teacher ignored him. He had only been at the school for a year, he told me, and had to do a lot of chores on the small farm.
One Rainy Day
I distinctly remember one rainy day that we couldn’t go outside to play at recess. We were down in the school basement that was large enough to hold on the kids. I saw him sitting by himself away from the rest of the kids that were playing one sort of game or another. I wandered over to him and sat down beside him. I started to ask a few more questions about his background, where he was from and all those things that everyone always asks to get to know someone better.
He told me that he had been in several foster homes since he was a little boy and that most of his time in the last few years had always been on farms. He said he was made to work before he went to school and as soon as he got home until it was time for bed. He never was given a chance to go out and play nor was he allowed to have any friends over although he told me he really didn’t have any friends anyway. As soon as he told me about having no friends, I was even more curious. He seemed like a real nice kid – he wasn’t rude, or nasty, or a bully although with all the heavy farm work he did he certainly had the strength for it.
Why No Friends
I asked him why he didn’t have any friends here at school? There was silence – a very strained and long silence. He didn’t say anything. He just sat there and looked at the floor. I asked him again.
He looked up at me and said quietly that the reason he had no friends was that everyone knew he was an orphan and did not want anything to do with him.
I Was Speechless
I had never before been acquainted with prejudice of any kind. I guess I found that really strange because I had moved around a lot to a variety of small communities, small towns and big cities and never had a problem making friends even though I was a complete stranger to the rest of the kids.
So, here was one characteristic of a human being where through no fault of his own carried a label that prevented him from even having friends as a child. His potential was also being ignored by the teacher who also knew he was an orphan. It wasn’t that he couldn’t learn, or didn’t want to – it was because he wasn’t encouraged or in some cases, allowed to.
I never knew what happened to him after the school year ended. By the start of the next fall, he was gone and probably to another farm to be their work hand again. I do hope that he finally made it out of that vicious circle where he could be accepted as having value and not shunned because he didn’t fit into the usual definition of others.
Discover The Potential
We may all meet people through the years that we tend to apply labels to without really taking the time to get to know them, to discover their real potential because our vision is clouded by how we always put people into pigeon holes that we are used to or comfortable with.
It is our human duty not to prejudge people because they do not appear to fit into our own circle; there is more value to discover other’s worth than to remain mired in our own small mindedness.