We had arrived at school early for Brooke’s parent-teacher (and aide) conference. But for a few staff members preparing for the open, the halls were deserted. Luau, Katie and I stood by as Brooke began her morning locker routine. She sat on the floor, opened her backpack and took out her folder. After three years of practice, she can do it all by herself.

Luau and I spotted the school custodian down the hall and both waved. Luau shouted, “Good morning, Mr E!” We were all smiles as he walked by with a friendly hello.

He was five feet past us when I heard the first one. A deep, gravelly, “Babe,” that came out of nowhere. I looked at Luau, wondering if I’d finally lost it, but he had the same look on his face. We shrugged.

With the next one, there was no question. Once again, all he said was, “Babe.” This time Katie chuckled. Luau and I again looked at each other, searching for an explanation. There was no one else in the hallway.

Every five feet or so, he said it again. He was walking down the hall saying, “Babe. Babe. Babe.”

With a laugh, I yelled down to him, “Um, Mr E? You OK over there?”

He didn’t turn around, but yelled over his shoulder, “Listen!”

And then he did it again.”Babe.”

Um, I’m listening, Mr E, I thought. But I’m lost.

As if reading my mind, he said it again. “Listen!”

So I did. And the next time he said, “Babe,” I heard it. The tiny response that had been there each and every time. Into her locker, Brooke had said, “Bee.”

Three or four more times, before finally disappearing around the corner, Mr E said, “Babe.” And each and every time, Brooke said, “Bee.” Apparently, they had a thing.

Luau and I stood in the hallway, slack-jawed. Katie was giggling.

“Brooke, honey,” I asked. “Do you and Mr E do that every time you see each other?”

She never stopped doing what she was doing, but answered my question with a quiet, “Yeah.”

I talk a lot about awareness. I talk about compassion and understanding and inclusion. I talk about seeing people – really stopping and SEEING people. I talk about reaching out and making connections. They are big, overwhelming, life-changing concepts. That sometimes have the simplest execution.

This man has found a way to connect with my girl. A silly little routine. A single word, split in half. A script. Heaven knows how it may have gotten started. It is nonsensical at best. But through its repetition, my girl is seen. With one word, she is told that another adult is there. That school is safe and that she is OK.

Last year, I nominated our school’s receptionist for a town-wide special education award. Some folks scratched their heads when I did. She’s not a teacher, after all. But truthfully, it couldn’t have been more obvious to me that she deserved the award.

Since day one, her office has been a safe haven for Brooke. When her aides give her the option of choosing her own incentive reward, she inevitably sets her sights on a trip to Ms F’s office. Ms F keeps figurines on her shelf and calls them by the names that Brooke has given them. She lets her rearrange them according to the plan in her head. She keeps paper and crayons at a small table in the corner of the office – just in case. And she celebrates her achievements. She talks to me about Brooke’s progress – always remembering how far she’s come. She points out the fact that Brooke speaks TO her now – that she no longer marches right in (most of the time), but instead (usually) remembers a greeting. She makes the school a welcoming place for a little girl who can have an awfully hard time there. Her office is a sanctuary. When all else fails, there’s always Ms F.

I watch these people in my daughter’s world – Mr E, Ms F, Ms J, Ms K,Β among so many others- Β and I am, quite simply, overwhelmed with gratitude. From the grandest gestures to the smallest, most mundane routines, they are acknowledging and caring for my girl in ways I never could have imagined.

Thank you so very much to each and every one of these angels.

Thank you.

41 thoughts on “babe

  1. What a beautiful post, today. And what a great way to start Brooke’s day (and mine today). These are fantastic people.

    Love you,

  2. This is gorgeous. We have a lot of Mr. E’s in our world. For me, this is a reminder of how important it is to always be on the lookout for an opportunity to be a Mr. E in somebody else’s world.

  3. This is really a beautiful thing, Baby ;0)
    Thanks for sharing… Mr. E has been added to my “… and thank you, Lord, for THIS person” List.

  4. Aidan will be changing school in the next week or so (hopefully) and it is a step in the “up direction”, ya know, where the issues they address are more academic then social/communication, and I think of all the “Mr.E’s” of his world that helped him to get to this point. That would be a long list of thank-you Jesus, and I am sure that the list will continue to grow, just like OUR kids:)

  5. My heart is so full at the thought of those few people who really take the time to make a connection. What a great post to start my day!! Thanks!

  6. I think interactions like this matter so much because they are not required. The custodian doesn’t have to say hi to Brooke, let alone create a special ritual with her. The receptionist doesn’t have to make time for her. But they do. And that matters. These adults are not just accepting Brooke into their world, but welcoming her and drawing her out, and not because they’re getting paid to do so, but because they are good people and they get it. Stories like this give me hope.

  7. I love that story…the people who our kids interact with always amazes me…the kindness and caring they show to my son is so special!! They truly get it and not necessarily because they have been trained but because they have good hearts…I am so glad Brooke has those people in her life and yours too!!

  8. I’ve been preparing for my som’s annual IEP meeting, and at the last minute, all my day care options (a 4 yo, plus triplets!) fell through. I notified them that I would be unable to come, but would participate through teleconference. They email me back and told me to leave the kids with them at school, they would watch my kiddos and take care of them for me so that I could attend the meeting. WHAT??? I’ve been in tears ever since. I already love these people, but now, they’re family. AMAZING!!!

  9. It always warms my heart when I remember that our schools are filled with people who just love kids, who just get kids. Even those who do not work directly with them. I can’t speak for all of course, but having been a teacher for nearly 10 years in the same school, and now having my little cherub of a boy in school I see that people like these are everywhere. My angel is like a little ambassador at school. Everyone knows his name. Everyone says hello to him, and he just eats it up. He especially loves visiting the secretary in the office. He loves being the attendance runner and she lets him push the button on the copy machine. It’s the little things. It really is. Such a gift these people are! Such a gift. And I agree with Karen, I too suspect that Brooke is an easy girl to love. πŸ™‚

  10. This is wonderful. Services are so important, but often it’s the little things individuals make a choice to contribute on their own that have a big impact.

    My son is 15 and high-functioning. At each school he has attended there has been someone who made a space for him. Someplace he could go to feel safe and regroup. In elementary school, the resource teacher let him come hang out in her office anytime he needed a break, even during the time when he wasn’t on her caseload. In middle school, he spent much of his day in the library, reading and helping to shelve books in a quiet, soothing environment. Now he’s in high school, and every day he eats his lunch in the teacher consultant’s office. They sometimes chat about something, though she makes sure it’s not about schoolwork, and sometimes he just sits quietly. There’s nothing in his IEP about getting this kind of time, but I’m convinced it makes a huge difference in his day.

  11. I love it when adults “get it” and find a way to connect to our children. It gives me hope and our children hope.

  12. With all due respect to these “gems”, “angels”, “people who get it”, and the like….I am going to remind you that this is what Brooke does. She draws people in and connects in her own Brooke way. It is remarkable, for sure….but it is HER! πŸ™‚

  13. So funny to read this today…. My son is moving to another classroom in his school and I have been so emotional about leaving our “angels”. It is amazing to see someone form a connection and bond with your special needs child. What a miraculous feeling to see that someone else “gets” him like his mom and dad do. These people are such blessings in our life.

  14. Okay, Jess, I’ve been a brave girl for a couple of years here…able to choke back the tears (for the most part) as I read your posts. But this one finally got me! I’m getting very anxious about transitioning our 7yo son from his early childhood education inclusion school (preschool through K) into our neighborhood elementary school (with co-taught inclusion class structure, but you know, not the same–this will be “real” school). It was hard enough to imagine him leaving his current gen ed teacher, special ed teacher, and para, who have given him more than we could have ever hoped for, but your post reminds me of the many others who love and nurture him — Mr. E for motor, 3 SLTs who have overseen his pragmatic speech development, Ms. D the librarian who likes to pull out music books he might like, Mr. D the “older” para whose energy and enthusiasm for life almost matches my son’s…the list goes on and I know I’m forgetting key folks as I type! My heart is so heavy…with both gratitude and sadness. Sniff.

    • suzanne (and amanda too!)

      that BIG, scary transition for us was between pre-k and k. i was TERRIFIED. i couldn’t possibly imagine leaving the loving, protective bubble we had in her integrated pre-school. but we did. and wouldn’t you know it? the angels showed up. they’re everywhere – sometimes you just need to stop and listen. πŸ™‚


  15. I am involved in the Special Education Advisory Committee for my school district. Each year we give 15 people in the district a “Golden Heart Award” to those who go “over and above” in some way in touching those with special needs in the district. We do an incredible dinner to honor these special individuals.
    We have had students, parents, building engineers, gen ed teachers, aides, bus drivers, principals, etc win the award and the best part is getting to read the nominations. They are truly amazing people!

    It’s always great to reward those who do those special things for our kids!

  16. oh, how this touched my heart! sometimes it’s the small things that mean the world to us. and i love that Mr. E just told you to “listen.” love it.

  17. Isn’t it amazing when someone gets our kids? Thank g-d for the Mr. E’s in the world. We have Mrs. I. Yesterday Jay was so upset because he left his homework in school. I could not calm him. I told him I would send his teacher an email and it would be okay. When Mrs. I got the email she called us at home and literally talked my baby out of his hysterics. Thank G-d for our Mrs. I!!! And thank you Jess for inspiring me and so many other to share our stories as well.

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