Celebrate This Week: Hope

Saturday is the calm after the week. A time to reflect and celebrate. Thank you, Ruth Ayers, for this place that allows me a space to sit and write.

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This week I’m celebrating those who give hope to children.  Educators and writers who call on us to never give up and to reach out to those in our lives who need hope.

Hope. That was the message Patricia Polacco gave students this week.

Last March I sat in the third row of  Riverside Chapel, surrounded by educators and listened to the magical storyteller Patricia Polacco.  As she lifted up her Keeping Quilt, she lifted us up and moved us to tears.

This week I stood in the back of a crowded school auditorium. Again she lifted up her Keeping Quilt and lifted up an auditorium of students with the power of story and hope.


“I write personal narratives, ” she told us. “How many of you are writers?”

Hands shot up.

“The only difference between you and me is that I’ve been published.”

Then came storytelling.

Stories of family and stories of struggle.

The story of being learning disabled.

The story of being humiliated when she was asked to read in front of the class.

The story of being bullied on the playground.

And stories of hope with a call to never give up and to reach out to those who struggle, to those who need hope. “You know who they are,” she said. “They’re easy to see. They’re the ones sitting alone at lunchtime. It is your job to reach out to them.”

She told the story of the meteor that had fallen in the backyard of her grandparent’s home and then reached into her red bag and pulled out a piece of that meteor. She cupped her hands over it and told of its power to grant wishes.  “You all can hold this meteor. Cup your hand over it. Do you feel it heating up?”

Students quietly cupped their hands over the “meteor” in their laps.

“But wait! Your first wish must be for someone other than yourself. Someone who needs this wish.”

Students quietly made that wish.

As students left, magic swirled around us.

“I almost cried,” said K as she exited the auditorium.

“She’s beautiful,” said D.

J came back late to class beaming. “She gave me a hug!”

“How did you get that?!”

“I just asked.”

Magic.

The next day, it continued.

In class, I proudly showed off her signature.

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“She has beautiful writing,” said S.

“Is that worth a lot of money,” R asked.

“It’s priceless,”  I said.

In an after school conference, a parent mentioned the story of the meteor. Her daughter had told her all about it.

Stories retold; that’s magic.

Patricia Polacco touched our hearts and left hope. Of being a writer, a reader, and a storyteller.

This week I celebrate Patricia and our school’s dear friend Dayna Wells, who sought out and shared the magic that is Patricia Polacco.

#SOL15: Day 28, Riverside Church and Patricia Polacco

Today I’m in New York, slicing day 28 with Two Writing Teachers.

I left Los Angeles yesterday. Problems, worries, exhaustion, questions came with me on the plane. Can I do this?

I land in New York, 12:40 am, greeted with texts from my classroom.  Can I do this?

Saturday I find myself in church with Patricia Polacco.

She spoke of her struggles as a reader. How the words moved and why she felt stupid. How she firmly believes a teacher saved her because he saw her. He didn’t know what to do, but he knew someone could help her. How he found a way to help her learn to read. How when you think you can’t you must.

I don’t know exactly what he did. But when I got the aha moment I saw it.

For you (reading) is elementary, but I had just climbed Mount Everest.

My life had changed.

George Felker had pulled me out of the darkness.

None of those books would have existed if (he) hadn’t helped me.

You changed my life.

To this day when I think I can’t face something, George Felker’s hand is on the center of my back

I’m crying. I’ve been crying. On my flight here. In my bed last night.

We kids, we mean to thank you.

You give us the wind and we fly.

I believe you do it routinely.

If you feel like leaving. You need to stay.

You are offering light. Always remember that no matter how tough it gets.

Let me thank you no matter how tough it gets.

I leave Riverside Church with my teacher soul filled.  Words spoken by a master storyteller and passionate human being.