When Sara and I call each other we have some things we say right off the bat so the other knows why we're calling. "I need you to talk me down." "I am never going to learn!" and "It's not fair!" The first two are pretty self-explanatory. The last one though, that is for when we hear about someone facing something that is really awful. Something we've never dealt with. Something that is just not fair.
This story is one of those that both isn't fair and changed the way I see my world.
If I remember correctly, we were in Kansas and my visiting teachers were at my house. We were talking about the parent-teacher conferences that were coming up. I said, "I just love parent-teacher conferences!" I went on about how fun it is to have the kids out of school and how I enjoyed getting hear how each of my kids were doing, one on one with the teachers.
One of the ladies then told us how she dreaded parent-teacher conferences. Her husband was a long haul trucker so she was alone with her three boys the majority of the time. Each one of them had a different learning disability and each had behavior problems. The meetings she had with her boys' teachers were very different than the ones I described. She said she would have to schedule 1/2 hour between each conference so that she had time to sit in her car and cry and then steel herself for the next meeting.
I was shocked. I took for granted that these meetings were a happy occasion. It hadn't occurred to me that anyone was getting bad reports, that moms were leaving classrooms feeling like failures, that they were driving home wondering what else they could do to save their child.
I felt sick. Shamefully, my first thought was of me, of course. How arrogant I must have sounded! But then my heart immediately went out to this woman who had become my friend. How overwhelming it must have been! What a heavy burden to carry alone! Who is to blame? How do you even deal with that? Oh! how unfair!
I think about that experience often, it really did change the way I look at my life. I try not to take the good things in my life for granted, and to just be grateful. I also try to be mindful of people around me who haven't had it as easy as I have.
Now, when I go to parent-teacher conferences, I watch for moms who look shell-shocked or distressed or just plain weary. If I know them, I give them a hug and make sure they know they can talk to me. If I don't, I try to find something kind to say. And if I see a woman sitting alone in her car . . . I say a prayer.