I am a teacher. Children’s minds were entrusted to me during my tenure; I did my best to guide my students to learn to use their talents to make interesting and valuable lives for themselves. Late in my career, a very special young man came into my school. His name was Quentin. He was a sixth-grader. Quentin could not speak, and he could not see. He also could not walk without the help of a walker on which was mounted the most fantastic computer system I had ever seen. It had bells and whistles and a great many buttons which Quentin could push for the computer voice to say words like “Hello. How are you?” or “It is nice to see you.” There was even a button for “I am sorry.”
Quentin was never alone. An aide was assigned to him and took him everywhere around the school. We were all so impressed with him because he was a very happy child, generally. I never saw him cry because he could not cry. Whatever disease he had prevented it. He was a courageous young fellow. His manners impressed me. I loved being in his presence, and I loved him because he made me feel special.
The aide started bringing Quentin to my classroom everyday just to say hello. When appropriate, I would stop my lesson and talk to him and let my students talk to him as well. Once, I gave him a string of mardi gras beads left over from the year before. He wore them everyday for the rest of the time I knew him. (He moved out of the district the next year.)
One day close to Christmas of that year, the aide and Quentin came into my classroom with a Christmas present for me. I was quite surprised, shocked and really overwhelmed. Quentin was giving me a gift? Wasn’t it supposed to be the other way around? As the aide handed me the package to me, Quentin punched “thank you” on his computer.
The tears flowed freely then. I was alone in my classroom at the time so my students never saw them, but it would not have mattered if they had. What an experience! I did not know that I had holes I my heart, but suddenly, at that moment, they were all shaped like Quentin. I was humbled, yet I was whole. The only thing I could do for that child was to love him completely which I did. And because of it, my life has been enriched immeasurably.
The gift was a lady Christmas bear dressed in holiday array. I have named her Quentina. She sits now prominently in the bookcase in my den where she greets me daily and makes me smile gratefully.
Thank you, Quentin.