Friday, January 11, 2013

The Unexpected Present

I was packing up my office in preparation for a new job in a different town/district.  On my desk was a little ceramic teddy bear sitting on a book with a small pile of books next to him.  It was about three inches high and very clearly came from a dollar store.  The community I was leaving was poor and I had been touched by the gesture  of receiving it as a Christmas gift from a student. I kept it displayed on my desk as a sign of my appreciation. 

When I got to my new office a few days later and started to unpack I found the teddy bear desk ornament.  I hadn't planned on keeping it (you simply can't keep every drawing, card, or small gift that children so generously give you over the years) but felt wrong throwing it away at my old school.  Just as I was about to pitch, I instead decided otherwise.  Instead, I quietly went and placed it on my new secretary's (Linda) long desk.

My first week at new school, the retiring principal (a nice guy named Fran) and I worked together to help transition.  Throughout that week, I kept watching the bear and waiting for Linda to say something about it, but she never did.  The bear was moved all over the desk so she clearly was aware of it's presence but made no mention of it.

On the Friday of Fran's last day the three of us went to lunch and Fran decided to skip out early and get a round of golf in while his wife still thought he was working.  Linda and I headed back to the school to finish out our week.  Almost immediately upon entering, Linda picked up the bear and gasped, "Ugh, now that Fran's finally gone I can throw this AWFUL bear he gave me away!"

Having just started Linda still didn't really know me.  I lowered my eyes a little and softly said, "I gave that to you Linda." Hi

You can only imagine what happened.  Here is a secretary with her brand new boss, and she believes she's just highly insulted him.  She turned a crimson red and stammered apologies of all varieties while looking for the most important spot on her desk to re-set the bear.  When she did finally set the tiny statue back down, the head fell off and rolled across office floor.  Linda practically had emotional breakdown as she chased the broken Dollar Store bear head across ugly gray Berber carpeting.  

I could stand it no more and erupted laughing. I tried to reassure her that the bear was basically garbage and it was no big deal that it broke.  But Linda would have none of it.  The next day the bear's head had been Super Glued back on and sat proudly on the front and center of her desk where it remained.

Over the years the bear became a fun memory for the two of us.  I really believe that humor a staff shares can become a binding point in tougher times (which seem to be multiplying like Gremlins...).  Linda was later moved to another position in the district.  I'll drop by to say hi when I can, and the bear still rests proudly next to the photographs of her grandchildren!

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