I stood in my school’s upstairs window, tracking the shifts in a slow moving storm. Clouds dark and heavy had pummeled us that morning. Now came a slight pause. I estimated thirty minutes before another downpour. Enough time to get the kids outside for recess?
I thought so.
I hopped down the steps, made the ‘outside recess’ announcement over the PA, and listened as delighted screeches echoed through the halls. And, for the first several minutes, recess proceeded as hoped. Then, seven minutes in, a single, precise cloud let forth a forceful downpour. I blew my whistle and we all clamored indoors, wet, boisterous, clumsy, all accounted for.
Or, so I had thought.
I turned back to scan the playground and saw one child, the quiet kid, Terrence Harrison, dead center on the basketball court, rocking side to side. “Terrence! Come on!” He didn’t budge so I pulled my hood tight and headed back out. I discovered him coat-less, without shoes, clad in wet jeans and a soaked t-shirt.
“Terrence! What are you doing out here, man?” He made a clicking sound, but said nothing else. I reached out my hand. He did not reach back. Instead, he leaned forward, cupping something between both palms, holding it close to his chest. I couldn’t tell what he concealed, but he seemed to be protecting it. Now what? In the rain I became impatient, declaring us both too wet for games. I hauled him up, and hustled us both toward the back door. Click, click.
When we stepped inside, at last the boy spoke – one word: “Look!”
He lifted his cupped hands close to my face and pulled back the hand on top. There, crumpled, vivid, but still dry, sat a bright explosion of geometry rendered from folded paper. Wa lah! A flower. He held out this fragile thing, beheld it with open-eyed wonder and then said to me, “Take it.”
That brought the total number of spoken words to three, plus the clicks.
How this folded art survived I could not explain, And, likewise, Terrence persisted. I looked at the flower, at the boy, and then accepted, exhaling as I did so.
When we got to the office, my secretary scanned us both and asked whether she should call his mom. “No. Let’s wait. But can you get him a pair of sweats and a blanket? He can dry off by the heater.”
Such a small thing, this burst of color, cradled between his palms. He pulled up a plastic chair and took advantage of a warm room. I placed his flower on the heater grates next to him as he relaxed into to an apparent vigil. He was wet, calm, peaceful.
My impulse to scold passed. Instead, I observed him sort things out. I knew next to nothing about him other than the fact that he had presented an offering, simple and surprising. Perhaps I should have said thank you.
Thank you, because he slipped through the tightness that most days constituted my normal. Who had I become? As if my primary purpose were reduced to controlling out-of-order circumstances. Really? Please had I let that become my truth?
Divine nudges come all the time. Just when I lose faith in life, they return. They insist, and cry out. “Look over here! Listen to me.” Message for today: Pay attention when a silent boy shares his secrets. He may offer something to a reluctant spirit, ever cupped between who he once was, and that which awaits.