Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: Support urged for Spectrum

I recently posted something on Bristol’s Front Porch Forum. Free horseradish root plants. I checked the box to allow people from area Front Porch Forums to see this posting.
You never know what kind of “bites” you are going to get on social media.
Shawn, from Goshen, reached me. He asked for me to put some horseradish aside for him. He planned on arriving at my house in the later afternoon, on Saturday.
On Saturday morning, I worked on the Community Garden, clearing it up, because the land was being sold. I came home. I ate lunch. I was about to leave a note for Shawn to visit our back porch and take whatever horseradish roots he wanted. I was eager to get back to work at the garden. I finally decided to stay home and wait until Shawn arrived.
Shawn pulled up in his pickup truck. I went into our home and retrieved the bucket with the horseradish root. As Shawn walked up the path to where I was standing in our front yard, he said, “I think you were once my algebra teacher.” He explained that I was then pregnant with my first child. We are talking about 37.5 years ago. How could he recognize me with wrinkles and silver hair? He said I had a distinctive face. I certainly did not recognize the teenage boy this man once was.
He did not expect me to remember him. After all, over the course of teaching over 30 years, a high school teacher works with thousands of students. I told him that the only way I could work was to understand how important it was for each student to understand his/her worth. I wanted all my students to succeed. My hope was that we touched each other’s lives in a positive way. Hopefully our interaction was a helpful experience.
You never know. I am a human being. I have made mistakes.
Shawn then proceeded to tell me that Jeff, a boy he used to play with as a kid, was in our algebra class.
One morning, I came to school, about 37.5 years ago, and was about to start to teach our algebra class. I was called outside to the hall. An administrator told me that Jeff, our classmate, had hung himself. (High schools currently have a whole system that is put into action whenever a student dies. Schools understand that, to a certain degree, we are a family extension. We are there for each other to support, listen, share, open our hearts and minds….)
My next job was to turn around and enter our classroom and be present with a group of adolescents. I cannot imagine not crying. I hope I told my students how each of them is so very precious.
I asked Shawn if he remembered what we did. Shawn said he remembered that word had gotten around, that everyone knew already about Jeff. He remembered that our class spent some quiet time with each other. And then we did some algebra, something “normal.”
I expressed to Shawn that during this pandemic I have been concerned about adolescents not being allowed to hang out with their peers, their “tribe.”
Adolescents certainly are experiencing so many changes in their lives, figuring out how to emerge into this “adult world.” Merely navigating social media would exhaust me. How do adolescents do it?
Shawn needed to move on. He was about to visit his son. We said goodbye. I later emailed him to thank him for sharing with me. It was a mutual experience.
I, now in my life, have the chance to honor Jeff with a donation to Spectrum, Youth and Family Services. I just took this information from their website.
“Our Mission & Vision:
Our mission is to empower teenagers, young adults, and their families to make and sustain positive changes through prevention, intervention, and life skills services.
•  We envision a world where those who face great challenges realize their vast human potential.
•  We believe people can change their lives.
•  We believe this happens when people find their motivation to change.
•  We believe that as people change their lives, the individual, family and community are transformed.”
If you are so moved, join me. Make out a check to Spectrum. Mail it to: Spectrum, 31 Elmwood Ave., Burlington, VT  05401.
By the way, I call all this “spiritual synchronicity.”
Thank you for listening.
Patricia Heather-Lea
Bristol

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