My coffee is lukewarm by the time I reach the end of our lane. I'm tired of trying to take pictures with my woolen Estonian mittens slipping and sliding on the ceramic mug, coffee sloshing, so I don't shoot any. My hip is sore; I really thought I'd have dropped some weight with all this walking. My left elbow aches every time I stretch it out, even hurts to hold the coffee. I toss the last few mouthfuls into the grass, and use the flash for a picture of the Christmas mug in the tree, but I'm not giggling to myself like I usually am. I decide this can be the last mug in a tree for this season. I don't feel like an artist this morning on an artist date; I feel like I'm walking to work.
I play with perspective in my first few pictures, squatting down to line up snow banks, familiar tipi or hills in the background. Maybe there is something new about today, I think. The pavement is dry under my feet. I'm making good time. My spirits lift as the sun sends pale pink light into the grey-blue of morning.
I'm lining up a shot of the school's name blocked along the brick entrance of the school. I frame shots of the Canada flag, snap again and again, trying to get the maple leaf to stretch out for a portrait. I don't have all day, so I start for the front door when I hear geese honking. I dig in my pocket for my camera and look up to see that the Canada geese's V formation is already past the school. I snap, then wonder if I can capture the geese and the flag in the same shot. Snap. Snap. Snap.
"I'm too late," I say to Mr. Horsman, the driving instructor as he enters the school.
"I almost got the Canada geese and the Canada flag." I hold up my camera to Andre, my colleague who's carrying a box into the school.
Jade and I are sitting in our L shaped desks, knees swiveled slightly together, visiting about her lessons for the day. Kelsey, my poetry-loving ex-student, pops in to visit, too. I'm adding a few pictures to my blog. I see that I did get a tiny glimpse of the Canada Geese near the bottom, left hand side of the picture, a Canada flag in the top right corner. The phone rings and it's Moira. Her voice is gravelly. She wants to stay home. I remind her about the presentation, but she's pretty sure they can handle it without her. I point out that she is a wilter, and maybe she should just suck it up and come to school, but I let her make the call, and she decides to stay home. I feel guilty for questioning her. I feel guilty that my kid is always sick.
Today is Think Day. I don't know what that means, and I haven't asked, but it's sponsored by SADD, Students Against Dangerous Decisions, and Moira is part of SADD. I email Deanna, our secretary, to let her know Moira will be absent. At 8:50, Moira pops her head into our classroom. "Hi Mom." She looks a little drowsy, maybe a little head-cold hovering over her shoulder, but she has a smile on her face. I email Deanna, letting her know Moira is here.
She emails back. "Girls. Can't make up their mind about anything."
"I hear ya," I email back.
In period three, Think Day includes a presentation from LiveDifferent, with two young hosts, multi-media montage using humor, magic tricks, interactive gags, and personal testimony of how young people can Live Different. They tell us, "We believe that a changed heart can truly change the world." There's a live band, electric and bass guitar, wicked drums, and an Alanis Morissette-like lead singer who can hold notes, and yell, and carry a tune. They're called Crystalyne. I whoop and holler, eating up the energy and the message.
I'm not sitting with Jade, but I hear her yell from across the gym when Johnny Henderson the Eighth says that he was in the Dominican Republic recently. He tells the story of Maria, a woman he helped sift through garbage collecting plastics for about a dollar a day. She raised five children, but couldn't put any through school. Still, John talks of how she changed his life with her hope and love for her own family. Her family means everything values, and her interest in his life and dreams.
Just today, Jade was showing her B10 students the documentary The Price of Sugar; the story of Hatian refugees and their slave labour producing much of the Dominican Republic's sugar bought by the U.S. In fact, all of the LiveDifferent presentation hits on themes and issues Jade has been addressing in both her A10 and B10 classes. She has laid a foundation for sixty of the students in the audience to be hearing this message with heightened awareness. She posts on her student-only, in-class facebook page: Can a changed heart change the world?
During the presentation, Moira and her friends are sitting right at the front left side, under the spell of the bass guitar player with his head-banging long hair, big grin, and eternal energy. After the show, the kids hang out, meet the band and the speakers. I'm proud of our quirky SADD kids who are trying to Live Different already, and they aren't the only ones hanging out during the lunch hour, visiting with these young role models.
I'm leaving the gym when Raelee walks in. "How do I sign up? Who do I talk to?" I look around, see Johnny Henderson the Eighth talking with Michael and Andre. I point. "Let's go see him."
"I'm interested in joining," says Raelee.
"You can check out our website, but what I really want you to know is that you can make a difference. I want you to be empowered to live different," he says.
Raelee nods, listening.
"If you leave here today knowing that your changed heart can change the world, that's why I'm here."
"She already is," I say. "She's written something that's changing my world. She's an artist, too."
"The arts are incredible, too," Johnny says. "You can use your talents to make a difference."
Raelee nods. We shake hands, visit a little more. Tears are rolling down my cheeks.
The sun is shining, big and bold in the sky. I take off my head band and mitts, and carry them. I make good time, not stopping for anything, except to catch my breath as I walk up the coulee. I phone Arwen, and she says, "I'll come meet you."
She runs down the coulee along the freshly sanded road, her jacket wide open. I pull out my camera, and snap only twice before she has reached me. "Mommy," she yells and we hug.
It's evening and Arwen is collecting items for Project Christmas Child, a shoebox full of surprises for a child who doesn't look forward to Christmas morning the way we do in North America. We follow the guidelines with adding school supplies, soap, play jewellery, socks, stuffies. I find some table tennis balls. "How about we put a couple table tennis rackets in," I say.
Arwen has written a letter and taped a school picture on the page. She is going through the box again. She walks towards me as I lay in bed, writing with the laptop on my knees. "Mom. Pretend you're the girl, and I hand you this box." She hands me the box. "Isn't it heavy? What would you be thinking?"
"It is heavy," I say. "Hey, honey. Look at that price tag on the side. I think you should take that off." The box is from my Windriver hiking boots
"How much were they, Mom?"
"I bought them on sale for $87.00, but the price tag says, $124.99. That's more than some people make in a month," I say and pause. "In three months." I remember the statistics I heard just today that one billion people on the planet make under a dollar a day, and another two billion make just two dollars a day.
I'm laying in bed typing. I have to stretch out my left arm every few minutes, and it still hurts. When I get up to put laundry in the dryer, my hip aches. But my babies are fed; all three go to school almost every day; my husband has a good job; we have a warm, comfortable home; tomorrow I'm driving to Banff for a girlfriend ski weekend and the list of blessings stretches out before me like a never-ending-paper-doll-chain, beautiful, delicate, personal.
Today sure is Think Day, but I don't know what to think. I'm feeling thankfulness; I'm feeling overwhelmed; I'm feeling insignificant. I'm feeling guilty. But I am trying to live different and I have the pictures to prove it. And I am trying to take a few along with me. And I am walking along-side those whose hearts are changed and yes, I believe Raelee and Jade and Kelsey and Moira and Sweet, my personified paper-doll-chain, can change the world.