Inspiring Okeechobee: A Valentine’s inspiration: The unexpected gift

OKEECHOBEE — Inspiration sometimes is found in simple acts of kindness and that’s what happened this week. This week was off to a miserable start: back pain, illness, and sadness. We were all trying to “put on a happy face” at our house for the sake of the kids, when celebrating their mother’s first heavenly birthday. This was on Monday, Feb. 13. Of course, this day was followed by Valentine’s Day, but not just an ordinary Valentine’s Day.

This would be the day the Grand Jury would convene to deliberate about the children’s mother’s case. Line it up on the list of Leah’s fairly awful days, and it ranks in the top ten of lifetime hard days!

Wait! It’s Valentine’s Day though. A day where we are celebrating love, kindness and tenderness with those who mean a lot to us. I must say I did not miss the bouquet of flowers, the card or anything else while I was simply trying to keep a smile on my face and tears out of my eyes all day, putting on that brave face in front of school children.

Of course, by now, if you follow Inspiring Okeechobee stories, you have learned I teach fourth grade. Fourth graders are at an age where they are desperate to be “grown up” yet still so innocent and tender. Well, in “teacher-land” Valentine’s Day is a day where it is quite a challenge to teach. Students continued to interrupt with questions like: When are we having the party Mrs. Suarez? What time are we going to pass out stuff Mrs. Suarez? Can we open our fun dip now? When are we going to have the cookies I brought in? Oh, my goodness, the questions, while I am trying to teach the author’s point of view and how to multiply fractions!

Finally, the time arrives for everyone to pass their wares about the classroom. I received a flower pot with heart-shaped thumb prints and a bag of candy from one of my students, assorted valentines from others, a vase with pens, a cup which now tells me I am the #1 Teacher, flowers and more candy than a diabetic person should see in their lifetime. The drinks were poured, the snacks passed out, the Valentines were being exchanged and all bets were off for more work to be done.

Here is the inspiration. I have a kid who just really tugs at my heart strings and the student walked up and said, “Here Mrs. Suarez, I got this card for you.” I said, “thank you.” When I considered the previously opened envelope, I see the already opened card (of course the rubber bracelet that came with the card is gone). The card was signed to the student from someone else, so I took it to the student and said, “You must take this home and share it with mama, because someone really special wanted you to have it.” The student took the card back, but only for a second. Then those big eyes look up and the student said, “It’s yours and I want you to have it. It’s from me,” and so it was, just for me!

It was at that very moment when I realized it was the only thing this student had to give. As much as the student would have likely preferred to take it home, it was more important for the student to have something to give. Mother Theresa said, “It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.” That pivotal moment snapped me out of my funk. My cup definitely runneth over, but I had forgotten with my “woe is me” attitude.

What if we could give like our children give? Sometimes we adults get so hardened to this world. Just once this week, I challenge you to give something to someone, not because you have to, but because you want to.

Pay for the order behind you in the fast food line, hold a door, spend time visiting someone at the nursing home, drop off food at the food pantry, or even give up your super cool card, but if you must – keep the rubber bracelet.

Leah Suarez is a freelance writer.

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