March 18th 2011
What does a sixty-one year old grandmother, living and working in the city of Camden, have in common with a 20 year old sophomore from The College of William and Mary?
Some people might think—not much. This past week Kelly Ann, a History and Secondary Education major was partnered with Tina Thomas—a teacher’s assistant at our CamdenForward School—to provide supervision for our Kindergarten Class.
Prior to last Monday, Kelly Ann and Ms. Thomas had never met. Their worlds are completely different. Kelly Ann spends the bulk of each day taking lecture notes, going to InterVarsity Christian Fellowship Meetings, and roaming the bucolic grounds of her campus. In coming weeks, Kelly will to wade through the angst of deciding on whether she should do a summer internship in educational research, travel the globe, or get a part-time job to raise a little extra cash.
Ms. Thomas arrives at the CamdenForward School early in the morning and is greeted by wide-eyed, energetic, demanding 5 year olds. It’s tiring work. On lunch break Ms. Thomas ponders how to stretch her pay check to cover her bills.
Different women. Different stories. Different vocations. Radically different lives.
But this past week Kelly Ann and Ms. Thomas crossed a road. Two strangers became friends.
“I’ve been in awe of the love Ms. Thomas shows these kids,” shared Kelly Ann. “I’m a little out of my comfort zone. But Ms. Thomas took me under her wing.”
When asked the highlight of her week, Kelly Ann responds: “My conversations with Ms. Thomas have been terrific. She has so much wisdom to share with me. And just watching her work—she has high expectations for the children. She’s invested in their potential. I’m leaving with a new outlook on education, on the city, and on how faith can impact our work.”
“Kelly Ann was really bothered that some of the children did not have snacks, or much to eat at lunch,” began Ms. Thomas. “Kelly asked if she could bring some apples to class. I said, ‘Absolutely.’”
With grandmotherly affection, Ms. Thomas continues, “I just told her to put the apples in some of the kid’s lunch bags without them knowing. She enjoyed doing that.” “I wish she didn’t have to go back to school,” smiles Ms. Thomas. “She really has encouraged me. She’s a special young woman.”
So Kelly Ann and Ms. Thomas will go their different ways—perhaps never seeing each other again. Yet they separate as different people—different because they have traces of the “other” in their minds and hearts.