It's just another school day, or is it? Maria, a fifth grader, is having a birthday. She received a special greetings this morning from her family at breakfast. That felt good. But school had just started and Maria is about to experience something that will change her life.
She's normally very quiet and reserved, raising her hand barely above shoulder level when she knows and answer, unlike some of the others who shoot their fingers to the ceiling and raise up in their seats as high and tall as possible to get noticed. Maria just can't do that. And she's not very outgoing at recess and lunch, staying pretty much to herself. She's OK with who she is because she can't imagine being like some of the other more gregarious types. She's fine although sometimes she wishes the teacher would give her equal attention. But, even if she doesn't, Marian won't change. She'll remain with herself and that's OK.
It's 8 in the morning now and roll has been taken. The teacher speaks, "Class, I'm handing out the Language Quizzes you too Friday so you can see how you did. Maria, will you please help me hand these out?"
Maria sat frozen in shock. The teacher had never asked her to do anything, much less do something that would create direct contact with half her classmates. She got up slowly and the teacher said, "Come on Maria! I need your help." She shifted into second gear and handed out half the quizzes. It wasn't as difficult as she thought it would be although she received some weird, perhaps envious, looks from some of her classmates.
Then it happened. As Maria started back for her seat (and she was very anxious to get there), the teacher said, "Maria. Please stay up here. Class, may I ask you what day this is today? The entire class burst into a very good rendition of "Happy Birthday," complete with "Maria." She turned red but somehow she began to focus on each singing face. They were OK even though she had not liked some of them. They were OK.
For that moment, for that day, for that school year, and for that lifetime, Maria was OK too. She began to believe, even though she reserved and shy, she was "somebody," somebody with a birthday. That class taught her, they believed she belonged in this world and it made all the difference.