After school today Mia stopped in front of the main entrance. Standing adjacent to bus number thirteen she stood there, waving. As I looked up at the bus I saw row upon row of blank staring faces. Faces looking out in our direction. Faces focused directly on Mia, expressionless. Faces that I have seen grace the halls of S. Elementary every morning as I walk her to her classroom at the farthest end of the school – past the always empty computer lab, the vacant art room, and the unoccupied dusty music hall.
I’ve seen all of these faces atleast one hundred times, for atleast one hundred and eighty five days. Sometimes a few of the younger ones who were part of Mia’s kindergarten class last year, or older siblings of the same, stop to say hi. They don’t care if Mia doesn’t reply. They say it all the same. Some of them stopping directly in her path, right in her field of vision, to elicit a response.
But today, after school, I saw my daughter engage a group of her peers in an appropriate manner and I saw all of these faces stare back in silence. I rapidly combed the rows of steely faces hoping to find one child waving. I did not. And I was afraid. Afraid that no one cared enough to pick up their hand and wave. Afraid that all of them saw too much of a difference in Mia to waste their time. Afraid that my nightmare had come true, early. My fears manifest in a bus full of uninterested children who see my daughter as divergent. The real life fork in the road; with Mia left standing in the gutter as all the other children ride off laughing, in their BIG yellow bus.
But more than any of that, I was mostly afraid for Mia’s feelings because at this point she raised her hand higher and her voice rang out – “Good-bye Friends!”
As my eyes hurriedly searched the crowd of faces one last time it was then that I noticed her sitting three rows from the back. She was waving frantically, with a smile from ear to ear, a beautiful face and hair in many braids – impeccably perfect for a girl of ten. As her hand moved back and forth she too raised her voice while pushing down the window to yell out “Good-bye!” It was then that something spectacular happened – all the kids in the seats to the front and back of this angel started waving. Each child looking at Mia lifted their arms in unison while their voices rang out in harmony,“Good-bye.” Their chant resonated in my soul.
Mia stood there silently for a moment, taking it all in. And then, with masterful precision once again raised her arm skyward and bellowed “Good-bye Friends!” before taking off in a quick, excited skip wearing a huge smile on her face. But before I turned to follow my daughter, I did one last thing. I whispered two words to the girl in the third row from the back; words I breathed voicelessly so my child wouldn’t hear. “Thank you.” Our eyes locked and she mouthed back, “Why?”
..Because you, random, sweet, beautiful, wonderful girl, YOU touched my heart. You changed my life. You made my daughter smile – without evening knowing you were doing anything special. You changed the world.