I stood nervous with anticipation, my mind racing–but my mouth not uttering a word. Next to me my fellow Sunday school classmates: Heather, Manolo, along with a blur of others.
“Oh, there she is!” Manolo exclaimed.
I run to the window and place both hands on the glass, “Oh, Mrs. Francis! She has it!” I exclaim–in my head only.
What was Mrs. Francis carrying?
A mini birthday cake. An entire cake with those hard candied letters that spelled, “Happy Birthday, Laura Beth!”
I hugged her tightly when she handed it to me, and we sang and all shared a piece of that small homemade cake.
Mrs. Francis wasn’t my aunt, grandmother, or even a distant cousin. She was someone who cared, and she didn’t care just for me, but all the children at Community Christian.
She also made ornaments for all the children every year. They were all dedicated to us. She sewed each one. To this day, I hang her ornamenents on my tree.
Mrs. Francis died when I was in high school. Her funeral was the first time that death slapped me in right in the face. I cried and cried. But, why did I cry?
I cried because she cared. She helped raise all of us into the young adults we had become.
She cared even when she didn’t have to care–when it wasn’t her responsibility to care. After all, I wasn’t her child. I was only a child of the church. But, to her that was everything. That was enough.
When I think of what real impact is, I always reflect back on Mrs. Francis.
Knowing that leaving a true impact that feeds real life into a young human equates to doing some of the following:
- Go the extra mile to make it special. (Much of my childhood seems to blur, except that day I received my own special birthday cake).
- Make connections by communicating. (Ask about their day–but more than that–find common ground)
- Play a game. (I became a master UNO player from playing with the older ladies of the church, Mrs. Francis included.)
- Create something together. (Plant a garden, paint, build, play music) I love the idea of school gardens and makerspaces.
- Nurture. (So many children don’t have stable home lives or church lives anymore) Create a safe, stable and caring classroom culture and children thrive. They need it and want it–but don’t even realize it. Nurture by bringing in muffins every once in a while, take brain breaks, have circle time for ten minutes and just ask about life.
Building connections goes beyond better achievement scores on assessments. Connections create memories that make an impact that in turn leaves an imprint on the heart of a child that can’t be erased.
As an adult, I think back on Mrs. Francis often and wonder what she would do today? Her impact on my life, now impacts the lives of my students.
That is impact. That is a legacy worth leaving, and that is what my heart strives for above all else.
I must conclude by saying I never gushed over Mrs. Francis or thanked her really for all that she did. But, she never seemed to mind. It was just what she did.
Is that a real legacy?
Yes, I think so.