It's so rare lately that I get inspired, that I thought this deserved a mention.
Not long ago, I was substitute teaching. I must have been doing something right, because the science teacher pulled me out in the hall and asked me if I was comfortable supervising my kids with lasers. It might sound easy enough, until I add that I was subbing again for special ed that day, and the kids had been fighting the whole day. The teacher, obviously torn between her initial assessment of my competence and the look of fear in my eye, decided to leave me in charge of my group, but also to add one "regular" kid.
I went back in the classroom playing it cool, while secretly being nervous as hell. I was scared about being in charge of ornery special needs kids with lasers, but I was even more afraid of which student she would add to our group. There were lots of jock type boys and pretty girls in the class, and this was middle school. How was one of these kids going to react to being grabbed out of his or her group and thrown in with the social outcasts? What if they made fun of my kids? Ornery or not, I had grown attached to these kiddos. Although it would be completely unprofessional, if need be, I could smack a 6th grader down.
The teacher chose one of her weekly leaders to be in the group. I sized him up as he walked over, looking for any negative signs. In spite of his shaggy hair, frail frame, and general preteen awkwardness, I got nothing. He walked over confidently and sat down at the table. He poured and measured, following directions exactly. He didn't stop there, though. He intervened in the constant badgering between my kids, interjecting at exactly the right moments to show them how "cool" the experiments were. He made sure that everyone, physical disability or not, got a turn to hold the laser (the teacher told me that only the leader could hold it, but screw her. The kids were thrilled by it, and I'm not on her school's payroll anyway). He helped draw diagrams and explain light waves, he mediated, and he made sure no one was left out. I think the best part was that he didn't look up once to see who was watching him. Kids can be awesome. I had no doubt that this kid was going to make this world a better place. His parents had obviously done an incredible job, and I couldn't help but fast-forward a few years and hope that this was exactly what my little boy would turn into, even in those clumsy not-quite-a-teenager years.
Thank you, anonymous family, for renewing my hope in mankind.