I walk into the office of the elementary school and the secretary looks at my legs before she looks at my face. I smile and sign in, and as I turn to leave, I realize that I don't know how to get to my destination.
"Excuse me," I say, "Where is room 215?"
She gives me directions and soon I find myself facing the door of the classroom. I'm a little jittery, and wait a moment before entering to take a deep breath.
The eyes of 27 third-grade students are upon me. Some smile, some wave; others seem to stare through me.
I bend over the desk of one little boy to help him with his fractions. Once he seems to get the hang of it, I begin to move to another student whose hand is raised.
"No," he says. "Don't go. I'm terrible at this. Terrible at everything."
"That's not true," I reply. "You got that last one all by yourself. You are very smart."
His face lights up and fills me with warmth.
Later, I am reading with a child, my voice over his, his over mine, and before I know it, the three hours have passed and I have to go. I stand up.
"Please don't leave!" he pleads, and I tell him that I will be back next week.
Then his eyes find my legs, much like the secretary's did. I know the question that's about to come because it's the same question that I saw in the secretary's face.
"What happened to your legs?" he asks.
That's the difference between a child and an adult. He's not afraid to ask.
"They got hurt when I was a baby," I say. "So it takes me a little longer to do some things."
He smiles. "Oh, okay. So you're coming back next week?"
Acceptance. Just like that.
Loss of innocence
5 hours ago