"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.