After 52 years, I returned to my elementary school. I was asked to talk to the 4th and fifth-grades about bullying and respect and empathy and anything else I wanted to share as a special guest speaker. When I walked into the school I was transported to 1963. I was in the second-grade again. We were let out of school early because something had happened on the news and the adults were upset. I was, we were, too young to understand anything about a Presidential Assassination. All we knew was that school was over for the day; a couple of days actually.
As I walked through the school that day it was obvious that the school was smaller than I remember. The doors not as big, the auditorium not as spacious, the bathrooms not for giants. I remember we stood for prayer every morning, and nobody seemed to care. We hide under desks as a drill against the big bad Russians and their bombs. We quivered as planes and jets broke the sound barrier and the bang and boom sent us under our desks again. The floors still squeak. The smells are the same. The school was once again alive in my mind and in my senses. I recalled old friends long since forgotten; memories of fun and laughter and sour milk and lunch boxes.
What a great day! Oh Yah, the kids were great with their laptops and cell phones and media rooms and electronic resources, and their ideas about society and friendships and history and all things, good and bad. We talked a lot, and I listened a lot.
They were the special speakers I had come to see, not the other way around. And they had me at hello!