Friday, December 18, 2009

They Cared About Me

“I really like my new principal,” one of the students at Hillside said. “He really cares about us.” He sat and recounted the story told during a meeting with the students. The student talked about not being able to keep the tears away.

Hans Lassiter shared the story of a student caught stealing food from the cafeteria. “She was taking food to feed her mother and brothers and sisters,” the student continued. “He told us it was okay. They made sure the family had food.” Now I had to fight back my own tears. The story reminded me of the days when schools did more than prepare students for the big test at the end of the year. It’s hard to focus on academics when a person has no food at home.

Then my mentee got to the root of the matter. “He told us we shouldn’t have to pay for lunch,” I considered the students plight. His mother struggles to pay the $5 per day per child to eat at school. That’s $50 per week. That’s $200 per month. “He told us he wants to change the rules so we can eat for free.” What matters isn’t that Lassiter can move to make that change. What matters is that he cares enough to try.

The words of the student echoed after I heard them-he cares about us. Isn’t that all anyone really needs? Doesn’t it make a difference when students know they’re cared about? I had to pause to reflect after that story. It took me back to High School in Columbia, Missouri. There was a moment there that changed my life. I knew I was cared about.

It came after the death of my sister. Her death crippled me. I could not study. It was hard for me to find the strength to go to school. My grades dropped. My parents were unable to help me due to their own pain. Drugs entered the picture. First it was marijuana, then pills, then cocaine and then shots of heron. I became addicted. I entered a world removed from the pain of my baby sister’s death.

Mr. Battle, the counselor at the school, showed up at my house after I missed a week in school. He knocked on the door when I was high after taking a hit of weed. He told me to get dressed. He cared about me. A few days later, I sat to take a test. My body trembled. There was too much pain left. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t write. I signed my name, ran to the nearest bathroom and cried. I cried until the end of the class period. I ran from the bathroom and existed the building. I sat on the bleachers where fans cheered while I ran around the track. I wept until the end of the day. I couldn’t move.

The next day the teacher asked me to stay after class. She waited for everyone to leave. She looked down the hallway as the students departed. Then, she locked the door. She took a chair and placed it in front of mine. She looked at me-silent. I began to tremble. There was something about the look in her eyes. I looked for my rebuke. I did not see it there. I felt compassion.

“My husband died from cancer earlier this year,” she told me. “When it happened I could not function. I know about your sister’s death. I will not let you fail.”

She took the test from the day before and placed it before me. I had prepared myself for my F. Instead, there was an A marked in bold red that covered the page. She said it again, “I will not let you fail.” Those words rung inside my head. She cared about me. I could only cry as she held me. She cared about me.

There are countless others that cared about me-Coach Fred gave me a place to stay when I had no place to go. My American History teachers loved me through the pain. I was surrounded by teachers and administrators who refused to let me fail. They loved me too much for that to happen. They cared about me.

So, Mr. Lassiter and the good folks over at Hillside, thanks for holding the torch long forgotten. Thanks for reminding us of the pain that comes to school each day. Sometimes they lack the strength to learn. They are more than numbers measured at the end of the year. They are people working through the madness.

If it hadn’t been for people like you, I would not be here today. Thanks for the memory.


  1. Thanks for this posting this story. It's a great reminder that we all have the power to make a difference in the lives of others. All we have to do is care. Sure, it takes courage, heart, and a willingness to step outside ourselves. But we can all do it.

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  3. Basically, all anyone wants and needs is to know that someone loves and cares for them. It can make the world of difference. Hillside is a special place, and although the road to turning the place around is and will be a little bumpy, watch those kids get the job done.

  4. Mr. Lassiter is a great teacher and more importantly a respectful listener. The article was good and we as adults must understand that our kids need 360 degrees care not just 180 degrees. Meaning, how our child perceives themselves starts from home and matriculates from there to anywhere they may be. This is only the first step, there are many obstacles left.

  5. Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!