I used to recite the old rhyme while walking down the sidewalk at my elementary school, “Step on a crack, break your mother’s back” and would superstitiously avoid the cracks because breaking her back would be heartless and cruel. Plus, I didn’t want to take even the tiniest chance that the rhyme might be true. On the way back from recess one day, a “friend” shoved me during our typical avoidance of the dangerous cracks and I did step on a crack, in fact several before I regained my balance.
My fretting was evident for the rest of the day in class because I couldn’t concentrate and the teacher noticed. Ahhhh, the cognizant, caring teacher!
She asked, “What’s the matter my friend, you don’t seem yourself. Is there anything I can do to help?”
I shook my head, no, but she didn’t give up. She put her hand on my shoulder and said, “I’m here for you if you need to talk about it.”
(That brief exchange was a seed planted about the importance of caring teachers and the effect they can have on a disengaged student, some call them bullies and some are the bullied. More on that in another article.)
Could I tell her that I wanted to leave school that very minute to go home and see if my mom was writhing on the floor in agony because of my clumsiness or blame the willful action of the classmate? Could I claim a stomachache so they’d call my mother and I see if she drove to the school to pick me up in our car or would she be in an ambulance? Instead, I said nothing. My teacher winked at me and I felt stronger with her support.
Okay, I admit that I didn’t articulate such vastly grown-up dialogue in second grade, as I did just then, but I felt relief that someone was on my side. And when I arrived home, breathless from the long trek up the hill to home, I sorta knew she’d be there to greet me and ask how my day was. Yes, I breathed a sigh of relief when I walked through the door and saw her working on one of her oil paintings on the kitchen table.
Spring brings a freshness to the air to the air currents. With winter receding, new attitudes and aspirations try to emerge from hibernation. In spring, we seem more willing to clear out the cobwebs of past beliefs, read more, stay attuned to innovations and alternate viewpoints, like a seed shedding its outer husk, sometimes.
But, there are some who will take their viewpoints to the grave with no interest in exploration, sharing, listening or considering others’ opinions or ideas. After all, how could “I” be wrong; it’s the others who’re wrong because they disagree with ME. There are 20,271,272 residents of Florida now. Can you imagine the gargantuan number of opinions that are out there on any subject? It would be so egotistical of me to think that MY opinion is the only correct one that matters!
Back in the “Step on a Crack” days, there was a certain doubt that what we chanted was true while skirting those cracks with false decorum as we faked that straight line down the sidewalk back to our classroom. Our deviation from the straight line to jump sideways, forward and back to avoid hurting our mothers was so much fiction, but we tended to believe it. Like our opinions today, our righteous indignation about this or that, condemnation of that or this, him or her…let’s all take a breath!
There’s spring cleaning to be done, not just in our homes, but in our minds. Open the windows to the light of new ideas, shuck off the blight of stagnation. Get healthy, read a new genre of literature, bounce your ideas around others with no venom, agree to disagree kindly, join a club, go exploring, watch a sunrise or sunset.
It’s not too late to let your beautiful brain and mind unfold their crinkled pages and take on more ideas and toleration. Spring has sprung and it’s time for all of us to examine our ideas and step on some cracks. Our mothers would be proud.
Jory Westberry has been a dedicated educator for over 40 years, the last 14 as Principal of Tommie Barfield Elementary, where she left her heart. Life is rich with things to learn, ponder and enjoy so let’s get on with the journey together!