In August, we bring a set of new full-time writers to the blog. Today, please welcome Isaac DeBoer (’19), who will be writing for us on the 18th of each month. Isaac graduated Calvin in 2019 studying English, secondary education and just got done being an English teacher on and off throughout the years. He’s about to start being a resident director at Hope College in August of 2023. Isaac loves movies more than most things.

As a teacher, you wonder, am I needed? Or, sometimes, am I wanted? There’s no reliable barometer for how you’re doing as a teacher. Those feelings were on my mind as I, with feet up on my brick porch, was talking to my sister about my recent teaching experience.

She had just been on a trip to Austria, so we thought it would be a good time to catch up. As I’m lazily gazing at the imperfect mortar, I decide it’s time to take a walk around the neighborhood. My sister was a former teacher herself, so she knows which questions to avoid and reassures me that my insecurities of not being the best teacher are probably unwarranted and adds, “you’re probably a fun teacher to have!” Not a hint of sarcasm. I concede, but as I’m talking, my eyes widen and I see an old woman grasping at her walker, while sitting precariously on the cement bottom of a stop sign.

You might not be able to picture what I’m talking about when I say “cement bottom,” but I’d like you to imagine a pyramid. Then, chop the top little bit off so it’s flat. Then, imagine a very short stop sign poking out of the middle of that. And this woman was old. She had a bad case of candy cane spine and her arms looked like they hung past her knees.

My brain quickly goes into autopilot help mode and I say a fast, “one second,” to my sister. Then I approach the lady sitting at an odd angle. “Do you need some help?”

Immediately she starts talking rapid fire in a senior, sandpapery voice. It’s the type of speaking where you only make out seventy-five percent of what they’re saying, but I do understand her saying, “You’re my angel today; I do think I need some help.” I help her up to her walker as she says many variations on “I didn’t know it was going to be this hard to stand up. Thank you, oh, I’m alright, I’m alright.” As she’s getting up her back is slightly poked by a corner of the hexagon stop sign. I help her to get un-poked, and she seems to be, thankfully, functional.

After helping her walker wheel struggle over an uneven sidewalk square, I mention the weather today. Without skipping a beat she says, “Oh and we need to be grateful and enjoy every day we got. Looks like you’re enjoying this beautiful day.” It was push-out-your-bottom-lip cute.

When I triple-checked she knew where she was going and that she was going to be okay, I resumed my conversation with my sister, who had heard every word. Through laughter, she said, “She sounded like those two old men from Emperor’s New Groove!” I knew exactly the two men she was talking about. For those of you aware of the masterpiece that is The Emperor’s New Groove, they’re the two old men who are playing checkers and have the famous exchange, “You see, there was this big guy, and this older woman, who was uh, well how would you describe her?”

“Eh, scary beyond all reason?”

“Yeah, that’s it!”

A sniper reference. But I was thinking about how, during this situation with the adorable lady, it was nice to know that I was needed. It’s not often someone calls you an angel without a hint of irony.

My sister had to end the conversation, but I had some of my walk left. I was feeling embodied; I was a good samaritan. I felt connected to my community. I even told a stranger that I liked their shirt. Being kind is free!

A few blocks later, I heard a young voice call out to me. I looked over, ready for another random encounter. A young girl, maybe six years old, sang, “We have lemonade!” This spunky child walked a whole half block over to me and had the courage to talk to solicit a stranger. How could I not? Her brother looked excited and said, “Wow, I didn’t think that would work!”

Knowing full well I did not want lemonade, I bought some pink lemonade to make their day better. And to be a part of my community. I saw myself, twenty years ago, sitting on the side of a slow street selling lemonade for the same price. I guess some things aren’t affected by inflation. The older brother talked to me about how he was saving up for a 3D printer, and I even had a 3D-printed doodad I got as a gift the day before from one of my students to show him. The young girl let her brother do the talking, but in that moment, I knew I was wanted. Even if it was for my twenty-five cents.

1 Comment

  1. Christina Ribbens

    My heart is warmed—looking forward to more!


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