I rounded the mall for the fifth time. Or was it the sixth? This is a tough time of year for people who have no clue how to shop efficiently. The days before the big day were running out, so I had to storm the stores to find the perfect gift. I now know in my heart this concept is a myth.
I met some old friends from past lives walking out of Macy’s. They were all carrying bags of ornately decorated gifts. I discreetly hid the small brown paper bag filled with dental floss I had just purchased for my wife’s stocking gift.
We exchanged greetings and openly observed how many of us were a lot larger in width and how we all decided to wear hats even though we were in an enclosed mall. The conversation evolved into questions of what we did for a living. When it was my turn, I told my friends from the past that I was still a teacher.
“How can you stand it?” one of my oldest friend from college asked. I had to ask him what he meant? He continued by asking me how I can stand working with the unmotivated and unruly young students of today. You see my friend used to teach but he opted to go into business instead. Of course, this meant he tripled my salary. This fact also explained why he was carrying more gifts than I had ever hoped to afford.
I must have had a strange look on my face because all conversation stalled for the next few minutes. The lapsed time was probably seconds but it seemed like minutes to me.
All I could see in my mind’s eye was a large group of high school-aged children spending their afternoons collecting, boxing, and labeling food baskets that were to go out the day before Christmas vacation. I remembered groups of these same students collecting old clothes from their neighborhood so that the poor amongst us would not be cold for the upcoming winter months.
I saw older and younger students in my school volunteering for programs like Peer Outreach and DARE, helping each other fight off the temptations of drugs and alcohol. They were fighting for a better life.
“Why do you continue to teach?” was asked again, which interrupted my day dream-like trance. I answered abruptly by stating that teaching was all I ever wanted to do. I continued by telling him that I work with the most motivated and enthusiastic people I could ever hope to work with. These same people perpetually work hard trying to become successful, rich, and most important, happy. I, and many like me, feel privileged to be allowed to work with today’s students.
It was my friends’ turn to get strange looks on their faces. I don’t think I convinced them of anything. I just surprised them.
We bid our adieus and continued on our way. As I walked down the long halls of the mall, a fantasy came to my mind. I imagined myself talking to Santa Claus. I told him not to worry because there still is a Virginia. In fact, there are many of them.
Jim Fabiano is a teacher and writer living in York.