Things at work are not fun right now. The kids are just getting over the sugar chaos of Halloween - in time to start getting geared up for the Santa chaos of Christmas. Report cards need to be done before the Thanksgiving break. Conferences are the week after Thanksgiving. One of my teammates is creating dramas right and left. I go to work in the dark. I come home in the dark. In between feels like its own special kind of darkness.
The year that wasn't supposed to be is getting harder and harder to appreciate.
Except that I have Lars in my life.
We have a kindergarten buddy class. A couple of times a month we get together and my little third graders become big guy teachers for the even littler kindergartners. The kids are matched in buddy pairs, and for the hour they're together, the kindergarten teacher and I sit back and marvel at the joyous, busy, nurturing noise that fills the room.
Whenever my class passes the buddies in the hall, the kindergartners become wild fans and my babies the celebrity recipients of their hero worship. I of course get to be the head celebrity and there is little to compare to the unsolicited adoration of twenty-some five year olds.
Lars is one of our buddies. He has the sweetest corn silk hair. He has the brightest and readiest of smiles. He has Down Syndrome.
It takes me a while to learn the buddies' names. Those little guys do in fact all look alike from the top down. But Lars I learned early, because his third grade buddy wanted a new buddy right away - something that rarely happens.
He was frustrated because Lars, who has a full time assistant, wouldn't do what my student asked. Lars is cheerfully unbound by the restrictions of guilt or fear of consequences. Once I explained to the third grader that Lars learned differently, and that it was okay to not complete the day's tasks, they've been inseparable. In fact, in a twist of irony this is not uncommon with these buddies, the two boys look like they could be brothers.
Every time I come into a room Lars' face turns to me like a flower to the sun. And breaks into a smile like the sun through clouds. I can walk into our crowded and riotously noisy cafeteria, and somehow his smile finds me. Now, of course I look for it. And I'm never disappointed. I make a point to walk up and say hi, and his whole body smiles. Much the same way Toby smiles when we come home at the end of the day. It's pure, and clean and sweet.
I'm not sure why he seems drawn to me. I don't think it matters. I wish there was a way to let this little creature of undiluted light and love know how much he means to me. How much my dreary days are brightened by his powerfully gentle smile.
As I continue to search for the gifts and lessons this year has to offer, I'm beginning to think that Lars might just be enough of a gift all by himself. I'm in love in the light of his presence.
photo from Flickr