Wednesday, 6 August 2014
A narrow footpath flanks the playground of the infant school, where I help in the classroom during the afternoons. Each day, I pass along the path on my way to the school office, where I must sign in. I always arrive whilst lunchtime recess is taking place, and the children whom I have come to know are at play in the playground. More often than not, I am espied and the children run to the fence separating the footpath from the playground, calling my name and waving to me, which I find most touching and uplifting.
One breezy, brilliant afternoon in early summer, I am hailed as is customary, this time by a little boy whom I recognise as having been in the reception class where I help a couple of years ago, although I do not recall his name. I pause to speak with him, and he asks me a question, which at first I do not understand, but catch the word, 'artist'. Intrigued, I ask him to repeat himself, and then I realise that he is enquiring of me whether I am a "great artist"! Surprised, much affected by his question, I shake my head in denial, and reply that, no, I am not, although I would like to be almost more than anything in the world. He answers that he remembers me as having been good at drawing. I thank him sincerely, astonished that he should remember me at all, much less ascribe to me proficiency in a discipline I have not practised for years, although I do assist the children in their own work where appropriate. I take my leave of him, and continue on my way, a glow of appreciation having been kindled by the child's praise.
The little boy has eyes of an intense, unwavering, crystalline blue. They meet my own with the candour of childhood, ingenuous, confiding, reminding me that I have a duty to safeguard such innocence and vulnerability, however delighted and moved I am with the compliment bestowed upon me by one so youthful.
Later, I am given to realise that I have been made the gift of a new gem to hang on the necklace of compliments safely stowed in the far reaches of my mind; a sapphire, perhaps, of the same azure brilliance as the eyes of the little boy who unwittingly laid balm upon a wound.