Saturday, January 31, 2009

Gratitude January 31, 2009 -- Bill Jansen

"Give up your bike?" a familiar voice asked from behind. It was Bill's voice. Bill's my age but grayer, and at 6' 4" taller than me. He was riding his handmade custom bike and I was on foot, walking home from the gym.

Bill used to manage the bike shop in town and I was his regular customer. He's since become a kindergarten teacher. He says he was inspired to set down his allen wrenches and pick up the chalk by me. I don't know about that. He is a born teacher. "I never see you riding anymore," Bill teased.

"I've discovered my feet," I said. "Walking to the gym I've already run into five people in town, and now you. How's your year going?"

"Horrible and wonderful. My kids have the worst lives. Parents using drugs or in jail. Older sisters pregnant. Three kids are homeless. My classroom's the only place in their lives that's halfway stable."

"That's the wonderful part?"

"Yeah, I've got 15 girls and only 4 boys. I create little spots of peace, safety, and happiness in my classroom and that's when moments of wonder come. I don't know how I could do it without my taekwondo classes. They teach me to stay centered, grounded, and ready for whatever comes. Teaching is more like combat than most people realize. The kids tell me stuff that makes me want to cry."

Bill went on to tell me about the many wonderful ways he quite literally brings kids back from the brink. He's found a way to bring order into chaos, and to provide children with stability.

We talked for twenty minutes about the challenges and rewards of our lives. Impossible work. But somehow, with no help from outside, he gets it done.

Hats off to Bill.


Delwyn said...

Your friend Bill sounds like another godsend.

Today on this the first day of the month I want to mention that I consider myself lucky and am thankful for:

1. My grandmother ~ a woman of exceptional character and charisma

2. The Choir of Hard Knocks ~ for their raw and honest enthusiasm, for the reminder that they provide me of my blessed life, for their individual triumphs over adversity and for their collective charm.
You can hear them sing at

3. For fish that jump and go plop in the night.

Katherine said...

Teaching - yes, rewarding beyond belief, difficult in ways you'd never anticipate.

Today I'm grateful for:
1. Prof. Peter Molan, who taught me what I know about the marvellous manuka honey
2. The opportunity today to make and apply a manuka dressing to the graze of an elderly friend
3. The delicious home-grown tomatoes my elderly friend gave me on toast for lunch.

Mr. Kinder said...

Delwyn, we got the exact same choir here, but we call it the Love Choir. I'm a fan of this kind of music: homemade music. It's the best kind. I enjoyed the video clip!

And fish that go plop in the night? That's the one thing I can think of that I would love to have: a nice body of water for sailing out my back door. However, with incredible discernment, I managed to be born to parents who lived on a lake in Upstate New York. We had a sailboat and a kayak, and outings on those boats are my earliest memories.

Is your grandmother still alive?

Mr. Kinder said...

Katherine, you've written about manuka honey before. Now my curiosity is sparked. Tell me more.

As far as tomatoes's really cold here now and tomatoes seem so remote, about 6 months away. How fun it is to chat with people at the opposite season! Sailing trips, tomatoes, fish that go plop.

Delwyn said...

Dan: Yes I found the song they sing - silent night- so moving I had to order their 2 CDs. Jonathon, their conductor, is an amazing man to have achieved so much.

Not a day passes that I don't feel many times over, gratitude for this wonderful spot to live - each time I lift my head I see the river and the gum trees - we live in a 'glass house'.

My grandmother died 30 years ago - she was born early in the century.

Alden said...

Teaching not an easy job, it takes intelligence and commitment - sounds like Bills got it in spades!

Mr. Kinder said...

Alden, you've got it exactly. Especially SOCIAL and EMOTIONAL intelligence. Bill's got both of those plus commitment. If I were a little boy, I'd want to be in Bill's kindergarten. I'd know I was safe.