Monday, August 07, 2006

Maybe it was the 20 boxes of 10 cent crayons or the 30 spiral notebooks (also on sale for 10 cents) or the 8 boxes of markers that gave me away but somehow the Target checkout lady knew.
I was a teacher.
"Where do you teach?" she asked.
"The Bronx," I told her.
"Oh, that's nice," she said.
She continued scanning crayons and notebook paper and stickers until it clicked.
"The Bronx? Like New York City?" she asked.
"Yep," I said with a smile on my face. The pride my students have in being from the 'BX' has rubbed off.
"Wow, I bet that's scary," she said, still not scanning.
"Actually, I love it," I said, still smiling.
The next couple of minutes were full of scanning, then pauses to ask questions I could tell she wasn't sure were appropriate. She wanted to know if my students brought guns to school, what their families were like, if there were metal detectors and police officers in my building.
One by one I answered her questions and after nearly every answer she would say, "God bless people like you."
People like me???
She continued scanning and totaled up my supplies. By now other people in line were also involved in my story, asking similar questions and giving me similar 'God bless you' looks.
I picked up my bags full of pencils and paper and folders and scissors and walked confidently out of the store, having shared more of my life than is normal for a 2 minute checkout line conversation.
"I'll pray for you!" said the check out lady as I left.
The phrases 'people like you' and 'pray for you' stuck in my mind all day.
The stereotypes people have about my kids make me sick. The only way to break them is to keep sharing, honestly, what has been my experience.
My experience has been that my kids, who have lived much more life than I had at their age, just need someone to teach them how to believe in themselves.

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