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Jean Hines, Spreading Love and Joy

We've been at our current school for two years now. It's the longest my kids have been in a single system. My oldest started school while we were in Florida and between her kindergarten year and first-grade we moved back to Georgia. She started first-grade in a school close to our interim house. She'd had good experiences at both schools, but it always took her a while to feel like she fit. When we found the Beech House and moved again, my oldest was upset because she would once again have to find her place in a new school. All summer, leading up to her second-grade year she was unhappy every time we drove past the new school. She wanted her old school, her old friends, her former teachers. My younger daughter was a little more pliable, more willing to accept new experiences, confident that she would make new friends and like her teachers.

So, the new year arrived, and I started taking them to school every morning, and one of the first people I noticed was the woman I'm highlighting in my People Who Inspire this week. Her name is Miss Jean. Miss Jean was standing every morning at drop off with a big smile and a hug for anyone who wanted one. I started watching because people fascinate me. What I noticed was that Jean didn't just greet the kids that she opened the door for, she offered a smile and side-armed hug to the kids who sought her out. It wasn't long before I noticed my kids brightening when Miss Jean happened to be the one in line to open their door. I would expect this from my youngest, who still hasn't met many strangers, but the older one is reserved, and she waits to get the measure of a person before deciding to like them. Apparently, she'd already gotten the measure of Miss Jean.

I started hearing the name, "Miss Jean," in conversations about the happenings of their day, always associated with some kindness offered and I decided it was time for me to meet Miss Jean, officially. The next time I was out the school, I cast an eye out and found her in the hall. "Miss Jean," I called, and we stood and had a fabulous conversation. We have since had many fabulous conversations. I learned that she'd had other jobs, probably that paid more, but that she had come to the staff at our school because she had felt unfulfilled in her other work. I learned a little about her life, because I'm that kind of person and saw that she was living her life to coincide with her faith as if her mission was to spread love, and joy, to all these kids, some who may not have it as comfortable as mine.

It seems fitting that this post is falling around the holidays. Christmas shouldn't be a commercial holiday, but sadly it is. Faith isn't present in many of the homes decked out for the holidays. Miss Jean is giving holiday spirit every single day, and for that alone she inspires me. I always am impressed with educators because I like to learn and my teachers have been some of my most significant influencers. As my children have entered school, I see the big picture differently. I remember how important some of the staff was to me. I had a bus driver that probably hated me because I was loud and full of energy and he was old and retired from another career, but still working because he wanted to or more likely because he needed to. His name was Ed, and he drove my bus for several years and was always kind, even when my high pitched voice was probably grating on his nerves.

The people who work behind the scenes are as valuable as the ones working in front of the classroom. I suspect my children will learn great lessons from many people in their school, not just from their teachers. I hope that of all the things they are learning it is what Miss Jean is teaching that sticks with them. Love. Kindness. Understanding.

Every year I make resolutions, to write more, to exercise more, to do a better job taking care of my home, to do a better job cooking meals. This year, I'll still have all of those, but in 2018 I hope to be more like Miss Jean, sharing the love and promoting kindness.

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