Because you never know . . .

The seventh graders filed into the conference room where me and the other hospital employees waited to meet them. For the past six weeks, we have been corresponding via email as part of a mentoring program established by a nearby public school. Most of the emails focused on answering a standard set of questions about working life.

Only five mentees made it to the pizza lunch—several were out sick, one forgot his permission slip, and two of the boys lost their nerve—in other words, a typical seventh grade experience. The five brave girls in attendance ranged from a small girl who hadn’t gotten her growth yet to a tall girl with a womanly figure. Hard to believe they are both 12-year-olds.

I was disappointed that my mentee was out sick, but I was also a little relieved that I wouldn’t have to engage in an awkward interrogation—what often passes for conversation between adults and kids who don’t know each other very well.

Seeing the students took me back to seventh grade when I was part of two programs—a verse choir and a binary math class. I can no longer recall why I was part of verse choir—did I choose it? Or was I selected because I loved English class?

In verse choir, we memorized and performed several poems as a group. My favorite—Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Bells”—was our winning entry in a verse choir contest. Imagine a dozen voices chanting lines like these from Poe’s lengthy poem—

Keeping, time, time, time

In a sort of Runic rhyme

To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells

From the bells, bells, bells, bells,

Bells, bells, bells.

From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.

We loved it and so did the judges.

The same young spirited nun who organized verse choir started an advanced math class that was held after school. I was never a math wizard, but in seventh grade, I did well enough to be invited. We learned about the binary number system (don’t ask me to use it now!) In 1967, computers and programming languages like COBOL were in their infancy. Perhaps Sister David thought she was preparing us for our future, or maybe she wanted to treat us to fun math—I don’t know. I was semi-clueless about the point of the programs in the same way as the seventh graders visiting the hospital were.

Being part of these programs made me feel special and broadened my sense of possibilities. Today, I understand Sr. David’s investment in us and I am grateful she saw potential in me.

That’s why I agreed to participate in the mentoring program—because you never know when you might spark something in someone else.

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About Ellen Shriner

I write short memoirs and personal essays. I have also completed a workplace coming-of-age story that takes place in 1979 and 1980 during my first year of college teaching. I write on topics of interest to working women, middle-aged mothers, Baby Boomers, people who love to read and write, and those who belong to writers' groups and book groups.

3 thoughts on “Because you never know . . .

  1. You are so right about the lit spark, Ellen. Even grownups can get it, as we know! Enjoyed the post,

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