“Ok, love you Sposito.”
That’s how he’d leave my office everyday.
Some days he was there because he’d been in a fight. Some days he was there because a teacher had sent him out of their room. Most days he was there to sit in the quiet of my dark office and just…be.
I’d type away on my computer sending out emails and he would splay out in a chair, legs straight, feet pointing up, staring at the ceiling with his hands folded on his chest.
We’d talk about class, or working out, or cooking. He’d lie to me about the girls he was “talking to” and he’d school me on the definitions of phrases I’d hear in the hallways. Home seemed hard and the streets he lived on took their toll on him from time to time, and while I could feel his anger and frustration, I can’t recall him ever complaining to me.
I’d catch him in the halls out of class and I’d give him a look. He’d run over to me and wrap an arm around my neck, pull me in tight and say,
“Ok, I’m all ears. Just remember when I saw you ten minutes ago in my office, you promised me, promised me, you were going right to class.”
“You’re right, I did you dirty.”
“Just write me a pass.”
His “bro-hugs” knocked the wind from my chest and his smiles, though not abundant, were contagious.
We both left by the end of the school year. He went back to his home district and I moved on to start my own business. We had one final hang-out in my office, a hug by the buses at the end of the day, and that was that.
They said the 911 call came yesterday at 4:41 pm.
The house fire moved quickly and aggressively. A firefighter was injured and the house was completely destroyed. It’s unconfirmed but they think Elijah ran upstairs to try and wake-up and save his older brother before the smoke and flames overtook them.
Selfless and brave.
I tried to remember what I was doing yesterday at 4:41. I couldn’t remember exactly, but I think that’s when it started getting really windy outside. My house shook and my windows rattled and branches broke from trees.
Was it him? Was he calling out to me? Was his spirit yelling in rage and fear while I was comfortable on my couch playing with my sons and scrolling through Netflix?
I cried in my room when I got the news. I sobbed and focused my mind and my heart, trying to reach out to him across the void.
“Be at peace,” I said.
I’ve built many relationships with kids over the years as an educator. It’s hard not to love them all. They annoy you and push you and make you angry. You come from different cultures and different backgrounds, or from the same cultures and the same backgrounds-but your story is always different. Then one day they come into your office and the facade falls away. They look exhausted. Minutes pass in silence before you feel something shift. They talk to you. You listen.
You get to know them.
I look at my news feed and I am on edge. So much hatred exists. It worries me. We don’t listen to each other. We just respond, immediately, and blindly, fueled by our own mission and emboldened by the Tweets and Snaps we rely on, too heavily.
What are we afraid of?
What would happen if we turned it all off, sat together in a room, stared at the ceiling and just talked? What if we actually got to know each other? Shared our fears, respected our loyalties? Loved each other for our differences? Learned from our differences? Understood the world a little better through our differences?
I’m not picking a side, I’m just passing on what I learned from Elijah. Do with it what you will, but I urge you to use it positively; you never know what selfless hero is staring at you from behind a false bravado. Listen to them. Let them be. Your world will be better for the relationship you had, no matter how tragically short it may be. Believe me.
So, no more shootin’ the shit and no more hugs. I’m left with a short movie of him in my mind:
He leaves my office, swinging his arms, looking right while moving left. He disappears past my line of sight going the exact opposite way I told him to. I can’t see him, but I know he’s still in earshot.
“Be good! Go to class!”
“Ok, love you Sposito,”
I love you too Elijah.
Owner Spowerks LLC