Wednesday, January 22, 2014

"The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically.  Intelligence plus character - that is the true goal of education."    Martin Luther King Jr.


For some reason that I forget now, I was the sponsor of Orange High's CSF's group for a while.  It was more difficult for students to be accepted into the California Scholarship Federation than into the Honor Society...  members' grade averages needed to be higher than the NHS required, and members had to do a certain number of hours of philanthropic work outside of school, as well.  I liked that idea... no, I LOVED that part of our group.

I remembered that at university our sorority had similar requirements.  I'd made weekly visits to the Nebraska State Mental Hospital with the others, and I had seen so much within those olive green walls, the paint peeling off from the ceiling down to the floors.  Those horrid green walls, alone, would have never let me get well if I'd had to live there!  The frat guys who drove us to the Hospital actually played volleyball with the "criminally insane" inmates down in the basement (with plenty of guards lining the olive walls), while we girls were dancing with the teens upstairs.  We saw a lot, and sometimes the ride back to campus was thick with quiet!

But that had been a long time ago...  While teaching at OHS, I'd met a lady who became a wonderful friend.  Shirley was the person at CHOC Hospital in Orange who was in charge of education for the 3rd floor, the floor that was peopled with cancer-ridden children and those with cystic fibrosis.  She told me that it would be terrific if I would bring "my kids" over weekly to help "her kids" with the homework that their schools sent to them while they were there.  I offered the option to my CSF'ers, and a dozen of them jumped at the opportunity.

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The school day was over that Thursday, and it was our first day at CHOC Hopsital.  We were in Shirley's tiny office, flooded with books and toys and one small, over-loaded desk.  She told my students to go down the long hall and introduce themselves to the kids in each room.  If one of the patients didn't have homework, my kids could read to them or just talk or leave them alone...

Like a nervous Mom, I wandered down the hall, looking in and checking, and being totally useless.  As I peeked my head into one room, I saw two of my senior girls laughing uncontrollably and playing with a little boy who was full of pep and lots of laughter.  About 10 minutes later, both girls came running down the hall, grabbing me, and saying, "We don't know what to do...  Jose is playing with these two dolls, and...  Well, Mrs. Waldron...  Well... well, come see..."  So I did.

There was the little boy playing with a G.I. Joe and a Barbie doll, and he was soooo cute, and he was laughing, and what in the heck was the problem?????  All was well!  Both girls looked at me like I was soooo old!  They said, "Don't you see what he's doing?  He doesn't speak English, Mrs. Waldron!  What do we do?"  No, I didn't see!

Then I did!  He was... how do I put this...  He was playing with them alright... but the two dolls were...  Well, it was
a pornographic movie of sorts!  I thought that both the dolls were naked because kids had played with them so long that the clothes were too tattered...  That was a stupid thought!  And just because the boy doll was coming in contact with the girl doll's...  I can't go on!!!  If you don't get it, then YOU are just as dumb as I was!!!

I ran to Shirley's office and found a big toy truck... a sort of cement mixer-type of toy truck, and I raced down to Jose's room.  I broke up the G.I.Joe and Barbie "embrace," which made Jose cry, and I replaced them with the truck, which made Jose happy... and all WAS well.

We laughed all the way home that day as the two girls were trying to tell the others about the G.I. Joe and Barbie tryst without too much detail...  and a week passed...  and it was Thursday again.  Time for CHOC Hospital 3rd-floor rounds.

When we got to the hospital, Shirley was there to meet us, but all of us were pretty cocky and ready to make our rounds to help kids.  The two girls announced, "We want to go work with Jose!  He's sooo cute!  ... and he's teaching us some Spanish, too!"

Shirley looked at them, and then we all looked at Shirley.  "Jose's not here..."
"Did he go home?"
"Is he all better?"
"Did he say goodbye to us when he left?"

"Well, people, you have to get used to the idea that these kids will be getting well, and some of them might not be here the next week," said the wise Mrs. Waldron.

"He died...  He died Monday afternoon."

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That hour passed by, and then, outside next to the cars, I had a talk with all the kids.

"I can't believe that Jose is gone...  just like that...  he's GONE!"

"This is a VOLUNTARY thing that you are doing here.  That means that you don't HAVE to do this any more.  If you don't like this or if it's too harsh for you, you can say no to it. There are other volunteer opportunities, and it's perfectly OK."  I was tearing up as I was saying this...  I felt completely empty inside... the shock was wiping out all my other feelings.  I think I was saying what I WANTED TO DO!

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Next week, there were 6 CSF'ers with me in the parking lot ready to go to CHOC...

2 comments:

  1. Not only do I love reading all your stories, but I love that your very first blog includes my dear family friend, Shirley Lewis. As you may remember, I grew up across the street from her and her family in Anaheim Hills. What a wonderful person Shirley is. I can really only imagine what she had to endure teaching all those years at CHOC. I remember that there were many days when you could tell by her demeanor that she had lost a student that day; but she always kept her head up. And how awesome that you took your students to the hospital to play with the kids! I admire teachers like you and Shirley.

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    1. Oh my gosh, Mark! I'd forgotten that you knew her! She is completely amazing, and she taught me soooo much during that year... and so did those kids. It was a terific learning experience, but an even better life experience. I'm going to write one more blog about it tomorrow. Shirley and YOU are dear to me!

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