Their little eyes look around for their people. The ones who came to see them. Their mamas, daddies, siblings, relatives.
The girls are wearing colorful dresses, hair fixed neatly. The boys also are dressed in their finest, with vests and suit jackets and pocket squares. Sunday shoes laced tightly. Mama’s voices in their heads: Don’t get dirty.
Except for one little boy.
It is Kindergarten Graduation Day.
After the school program in the cafeteria, we filter back into the classroom.
Parents take photos of their students. They flip through folders of their child’s work from the year. They look at their art and they smile and they laugh.
Except for one little boy.
I hear whimpering in the Legos corner. There sits Caleb (not his real name). In tears.
And in tatters. He has no church clothes. His black pants are ripped in both legs, and the wrong size anyway. His face is tear-stained. His shoes are the only “normal” piece of his outfit—only because his teacher (my Jenna) had earlier asked if he wanted to switch from his regular shoes to his special school shoes (donated and kept in the classroom just for him).
Of course it’s not unusual for a kindergartener to be crying about something. Maybe a friend took their crayon. Or somebody accidentally (or on purpose) bumped them. Or they’re just tired and need a nap.
But when I ask Caleb why he is so sad, today he answers, “My mama didn’t come.” And he cries some more.
And a part of me cries on the inside, too.
He sees that other kids have parents here, loving on them, giving them attention, proud of them.
Who came for him?
I give him a hug and tell him he will see his mama later. That she loves him. That she’s proud of him.
Granted, I know none of these things. But surely it is true? I want to believe as much as he does.
Perhaps his mother told him earlier that she couldn’t come today because she had to work or was sick. Maybe she said her heart would be there with him anyway.
But maybe she didn’t.
Maybe she is in a hotel room (or wherever “home” is this week) getting a fix or sleeping off a hangover. I don’t know.
This is what I do know: it matters whether or not someone shows up for us.
Not just to 6-year-old boys. Also to 80-year-old spouses at an anniversary party. And to families at reunions. And to patients in hospitals and brides in weddings and grieving friends at funeral homes.
And to new graduates of kindergarten.
It’s time for me to leave the classroom and I hate to say good-bye to these babies I’ve grown to love through only one visit a week. Most I’ll never see again except through photos.
And Caleb? What will happen to little Caleb?
Only God knows. I beg Him—please keep sending people to show up for Caleb.
It may or may not be his mama that comes for him. But it will always be someone, somewhere. This year, it was my daughter. Next year, it will be more schoolteachers, maybe a social worker, an uncle or a grandma.
God sends no one out here alone.
Not even one raggedy, but oh so special, little boy on his kindergarten graduation day.
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Who can you show up for this week? Who has shown up for you? Please share in the comments.