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I Am Only One

I am only one, but I am still one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. And because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.
-Helen Keller

You wonder sometimes how one person can do any possible good in this world.  How one person can make a difference.  How one can be the change. We are all like tiny starfish scattered on a sand-swept seashore. Helpless to rescue ourselves. Often absolutely powerless to rectify our dismal state of affairs. And what of those seen as our salvation? What good is it to them in rescuing the one lone being when there are so many others lying there beside? What possible good can one tiny being salvaged be, amongst the many, many others who are not?

What difference does rescuing one mean in the larger scheme of things?

I had one student tell me this week something that has remained in my thoughts for two solid days straight. I cannot quit this thought, not remove it from my mind. It is there, and because it is, I must address it. Must listen to the quiet thoughts that run like cool waters through my sub-conscious, sending small shivers up my spine.

We’ll say it was a little girl who spoke. Could have just as easily been a boy. But nevertheless, a child. And that child: she told me she felt loved at school.

At school, no less.

I asked the question, but only because it was in that book we were reading.  That book about feelings.  And because we were talking about feelings, I asked them about love. Asked about when and where we as humans might feel caring, compassionate love. And among the many, many others who responded in the affirmative about love in its many capacities within family, she did not. She just made the very small motion to me that she felt loved best at school.

My breaking heart. I cannot rid my thoughts of the enormity of this travesty.  It hurts to even think about it.

And yet, is this not such a wonder, such a gift?

To know that one child feels loved. That one feels noticed, feels seen. That s/he feels cared for and loved within the safe haven of the classroom. That school has allowed a cushion to form for him, for her, that it has provided a soft landing, a gentle reprieve? It is a blessing in all its many capacities to know that even if as few as just one child has left the school building feeling loved, our work as teachers has been accomplished.

Teachers are not often connected with notions of heartfelt love and care. It’s not really in our mandate. It might even be frowned upon, a little. We are not parents, not guardians. We are not true providers. But we are caregivers just the same. And if a child needs us to notice them, care for them, reach out to them among the many, many we see and interact with each and every day, and we can do so with loving-kindness and genuine care: we must.

We absolutely must.

That one child’s life is worth the risk it takes to reach out to them in love.  It is worth the time, the effort and the investment.

I am only one teacher: as such, the task seems overwhelming in its most accurate description. But in spite of this, I am still one teacher.

I can reach the one student that needs me to love her/love him most.

4 thoughts on “I Am Only One

  1. Love this! I have remind myself that ‘one’ is important. I remember when I think of the times when I’ve been that one to receive and I’m so thankful for the person I encountered who gave me a smile, an encouraging word, or their love. It reminds me to keep giving because it might mean something to someone.

  2. I agree-sometimes people feel it is enough to provide. But, though we need provisions that are basic to life, when your heart hurts, a thing just does not provide what we need. It is never wrong to care. Look at the chaos of this world functioning basically without any concern for the love we all need.

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