"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle."
This is one of my favorite quotes and has been since high school. You just never know what other people are going through, and I didn't fully understand this until I started working with kids.
For the past two weeks, my seventh graders have been working on an essay about someone who has been influential in their lives. Some wrote about friends, aunts, brothers, grandparents, etc. Most of them wrote about their parents.
There is one student, M, who I work with often. She is funny and confident and she and I get along like two peas in a pod. (Sometimes we coordinate hairstyles. She always wants my hair up for some reason.) In her opening line of her essay, she describes her mother running as shrapnel flew through the air.
It is the story of M's birth.
M was born in Kenya during a time of upheaval. I was shocked as I read some of her essay, describing her pregnant mother going into labor as bombs fell around her. Looking at the words on the page and then looking at M, you would never know this is where she came from. She looked focused and content, her legs swinging under the desk.
I thought, no kid could describe anything more traumatic.
And then, I was wrong.
P is a quirky, mouthy, sometimes confrontational kid. Today I watched him struggle to write about his mother, slipping from past to present tense and back again. His mother passed away recently, and I watched him start to shake as he described how his mother taught him to laugh often.
Truly, everyone is fighting a harder battle.