Back to school time has always been exhilarating to me. It brings the anticipation of change and renewal coming. Others may make resolutions and plans on January 1, but this girl always felt like the year begins with September stretching out in front of me. The cooler air and crisp nights that are right around the corner are energizing to me. And those schools opening their doors bring a possibility of learning, new adventures, and excitement.
As a child, I loved the new school supplies and the back-to-school, fall outfit that I wore the first day even if it was too hot for it. I approached each new year with new teachers and new classmates with eagerness and drive. This was the year I would do it all right.
I cherished this time of year so much that it became a permanent fixture in my adult life as a teacher. Each year as I anticipated my new students I had the same excitement that I felt as a child. I still bought those new school supplies. But they were a little different. Instead of purchasing the fun notebooks and fine pens that I loved, I purchased supplies in bulk – notebooks, pens, paper, an abundant supply of Halls cough drops, and tissues – that my students might not be able to get. I cleaned out my home book shelves of all the books I had read and loaded up my school shelves with books I thought my students would like. I stalked the Staples’ back-to-school ads awaiting their special sale on spiral notebooks. When that week came, my friend Mary Sue and I did our best to secure every spiral notebook that we could for a nickel or dime (They allowed teachers 30 each, but you can make multiple trips when you have over 100 students!) My own back to school supplies included a few green pens and lots of Advil for me as well as an ample stock of wine.
I retired from teaching a few years ago. I miss the anticipation of the new school year. I miss the possibilities and the potential each year held. Mostly I miss the kids and sharing ideas and books with them.
Today I had a great time living that excitement and anticipation with a bunch of students I won’t accompany into the year or meet as they come home each evening. New Hope Ministries held their annual “Back to School Daze Craze” today with a carnival atmosphere. The children from kindergarteners starting out on this adventure up through seniors entering their final year were supplied with a new backpack filled with paper, notebooks, three-ring binders, pens, pencils, crayons, glue, and other things that they would need for the start of school. Kids were given an extra treat that they picked, a scientific calculator if they needed one, a book of their choice, and a “first aid kid for the soul” (kits that had a Bible, notepad, and pen). There were Disney princesses and Alice from Wonderland fame walking around and taking pictures with the kids. They got things from other organizations in town from school supplies to mini-footballs, frisbees, and toothbrushes. There were hot dogs, chips, and drinks. They had haircuts, eye exams, and bike repairs. There were face painters, fire trucks, popcorn, and cotton candy. New Hope made this day a real CELEBRATION OF GOING BACK TO SCHOOL!!!
I loved the excitement of all the staff and volunteers and how they spoke to the kids with the enthusiasm I always felt about this time of year. Today I was working with the senior high students who came for supplies. Even those who tried to be cool had that sense of ennui taken away when you looked at the twinkle in their eyes. They studied the choices to get just the right backpack. So many of them got really excited about picking out books! I found my tribe there in the young book lovers. The boy who devours science fiction, the girl who found the John Green book to complete her collection, the ones who picked up titles to show me their favorites already read. Each came to those shelves eager for a new find.
We often hear people say that when they give of their time and talents to help someone else, they are blessed far more than the recipients. Today I was given a lovely gift along with all those kids. I got to share my love of education and reading with some really great kids who truly appreciated what they received. I got to share the day with others devoted to giving and sharing with these families. What a joy it was. Thank you New Hope Ministries for the blessing you are to the community and to me.