Tuesday Talks, Painted Toenails, and Being a Light…

Out of all the days of the week, I like Tuesdays best. Sure, it goes without saying I love weekends, but on the days I work, Tuesdays are my favorite.

Every Tuesday, I get to go to the Primary school and meet with students for individual counseling. My list is up to twelve students, and it continues to grow.

Since I am only there one day a week, I don’t have an office. I meet with students in a large bookroom, filled with the curriculum for the grade levels on that campus. In a corner, there is a table and a whiteboard, along with a couple of chairs, and that is my counseling nook.

The door to this room has a window, so people passing by can see my little area. My table/chairs are also located by an outside window, so we can hear birds chirping and see the sunshine or the rain.

I love my little set-up, and always anticipate my Tuesday talks. Like Forrest Gump said about that box of chocolates, so it is with these conversations—–I never know what I’m going to get.

The week after time off from school always brings extra stories about adventures (or lack thereof) that occurred during the days they were at home. Tales are told and yarns are spun, and many times I have to break each sentence down in order to find the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

This past Tuesday was no different. I spent a great deal of time whittling away at responses and stories, trying to separate the exaggerated hyperbole from the reality.

I had several activities in which students were answering questions which gave them the opportunity to talk about a wide-range of topics. One question was: What do you want to accomplish/be when you grow up?

We often talk about goals, and how best to achieve goals, and we’ve discussed “careers” as much as can be discussed with first and second graders. Since I have been adding new students throughout the year, several of the students hadn’t yet shared their future goals with me.

I always learn so much from my Tuesday talks, but I had no idea that the answer from a first grader to “What do you want to be when you grow up?” would shape this week’s blog post.

Here’s what he said:

“When I grow up, I want to be a Marine, because I want to keep the light when the world is gray and dark.”      ~J.Y. (age 7)

Read that again…

And this time, hear it said this way: “When I gwow up, I want to be a Mawine, because I want to keep the wight when the wowd is gway and dawk.”

This precious, tow-headed seven-year-old with shoulder length curls and a slight speech impediment, encapsulated what should be the goal of EVERY human being—-to keep, or be the light.

As he said it, I wrote it down, word for word. Words worthy of sharing. Words worthy of remembrance.

My heart was filled with so many emotions, and I honestly was overwhelmed with hope that this youngster, who has seen and experienced great loss in his short little life, could express such a powerful statement; that he could already envision his future in such a positive way.

We continued chatting, and he added this, “I like Tuesdays, because when I walk down the hallway, I always look through the window, and I see you, and know you’re there.” (again, imagine it said by an angelic seven-year-old who pronounces “L’s” and “R’s” like “W’s”)

After talking with J.Y. on Tuesday, his words and thoughtfulness lingered. They swirled around in my head, and I knew they were not only offering up hope, but were also leading me to think about what it means to be a light in a world that is often dark and gray.

And on Wednesday morning, I began to find meaning in these words from my young friend, as I drove through the fog—the gray and hazy fog that hampered my ability to see. The gray that J.Y. so innocently, yet profoundly spoke of.

So I began to think about lightness, darkness, and grayness, and how it all affects our lives and our vision (both literally and metaphorically). Light and Dark represent two ends of the spectrum. They are opposites. And gray. It represents the in-between state; the middle.

For me, grayness always gives me the most trouble. Whether it’s my vision, and my inability to see clearly, or my vision for what I hope to do daily and in my life. Gray is neither light nor dark. It is not absolute. It is murky, and tricky, and it’s in the grayness that we need to proceed with caution, and navigate more carefully.

It’s in the grayness that we need the most light.

Think about driving (at least it’s this way for me)—-dusk and dawn seem to give me the most trouble as far as my eyesight goes. During these times, it’s not light or dark. There are shadows that can fool you, and when driving, some cars don’t have their lights on because they feel they aren’t quite needed. I would much rather drive in the bright sunshine, or the dark night (with my bright lights on). It’s easier. Things are more fully outlined and defined. And in the light or dark, I feel safer. I love seeing a light, when surrounded by darkness.

Whenever our kids come home (especially with Charles and his family), we always say, “We’ll leave the light on.” They have a six-hour-drive, and usually get to our house just before midnight.

We aim to be welcoming, just like Motel 6. We want them to know we are ready, and waiting, and anticipating their arrival. There’s just something about seeing that porch light on when you are driving home. It’s a beacon in the darkness. It’s the security and safety, and warmth, and memories that await you. It’s a symbol of care, concern, and love.

Several weeks ago, Charles, Kaitlyn, Cooper, Marlie and Boone came for a spur of the moment visit. Although we didn’t have a lot of time together, it was filled with laughter, and great food, first times, and last times. It was uneventful in many ways, yet a weekend that I’ll never forget.

I’ve mentioned before that our front door is covered with scratches, and marks from Marlie. She loved to look out the window in the door and search for squirrels. Whenever she spotted one, she would stand on her hind legs, incessantly bark, scratch and claw until someone let her out. Then the chase was on!

Marlie treed many a squirrel in the days when she lived at our house. Her “knee” surgery was the result of an injury acquired while chasing a squirrel.

On this ordinary, wonderful, simple weekend a few weeks ago, Marlie stepped outside with us into the front yard. We thought it was safe, but we didn’t see what she did. A squirrel across the street. Once spotted, the game was on. Marlie ran like she was a young pup, at full throttle. She darted across the asphalt and into the neighbor’s yard. After treeing the squirrel, her job was done, and she obediently ran back to us.

A week later, we learned of Marlie’s cancer. She crossed over the rainbow bridge seven days after her impressive squirrel chase. Her job was done.

Looking back, I realize that her last “hurrah” will always be how we remember her. Living life to the fullest. Doing what she loved. Keeping the world safe from squirrels. Bringing light where things are gray and dark, just like J.Y. hopes to do one day.

We will be sad about losing Marlie for a long time to come. She was a member of the family. Her passing is emotional for all the obvious reasons, but it also represents the end of an era. It defines the separation from childhood into adulthood. In her death, we experience the move from the “middle” (her life) to the finality of her death. But because we have faith, and we believe, and we know that death doesn’t bring darkness, but rather light, we carry on. And it is in that foundation that we find hope, and promise, and we continue to live in the light.

And everyday, we go on. Just like life. And we see the flowers blooming, and the weather warming, and the Dogwood trees signaling Easter and the time of Resurrection.

And if those things aren’t enough to remind me of the promise of new days, and new life, and life everlasting, open-toed shoes definitely are——they tell me “It’s time to paint your toenails! Spring is here, and summer is around the corner, girl! Take care of those toes!”

So on a Wednesday morning, I struggled to drive through the fog, and searched for clearer vision. Who would have thought that my hope would be found in toes that were painted in a cheerful pink shade, and the honorable, brave and hopeful dream of a seven-year-old future Marine?

I will never forget J.Y.’s sweet words and whenever I find myself in the grayness that life gives us so many times, I will always move toward that light. The light that J.Y. will fight to keep when the world is “gway and dawk.”

The light that can always be found even in the blackest, most stressful, uncertain times; the light from above, that always surrounds us.

Thank you, Lord for my Tuesday talks, and for little boys with big dreams, dogs who chase squirrels, and freshly painted toenails.

Simple reminders of hope, and love, and lives that are well-lived.




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