Shorter than the window of my inner office, he approached unnoticed. It wasn’t until a 2nd grade hand placed a uniquely fashioned small piece of paper on my desk that I looked up from my work. There I found a boy’s unsmiling face, furrowed brows above large dark eyes. Displayed in his eyes—was it worry or fear—or both?
“Well, good-morning, friend,” I ventured. He did not respond—only slid the note closer to me. I glanced at the note and asked if it came from his father (whose name was Roy) and he simply nodded. I asked if he could tell me why he couldn’t swim, and he only shook his head. I suggested, “Maybe I should give your Dad a call and see if he can tell me about this?” He shook his head again, turned, and hurriedly left my office. I thought he had decided his self-written excuse was not going to work, and he would have to go swimming after all.
School nurses receive many student composed notes with attempts to be excused from various classes, but this was just about the cutest one I had ever been given. It brought much laughter as I shared it with his teacher and family. It was a note I kept in my collection to remind me of that amusing time.
Years later I had occasion to visit with a sister of this young man and we recalled the happening. I gave her the little note to pass along to her now grown brother. In our conversation I learned that her little brother had an experience with water that left him terrified. The experience lay behind his note writing.
Suddenly, I knew “the rest of the story!” The note that brought much laughter had deeper significance. I wish I could go back 35 years and talk with that precious child again. His note continues to teach, when I am quick to judge behavior without taking a good look at what might lie behind it.
A perfect “bittersweet” story…of laughter AND poignancy, as well.