This morning I will venture out and pick up each student from their homes and take them to school, where the bus is meeting us. Each pick up is so drastically different. The first home I stop at is set on a cozy neighborhood block, it’s a duplex and I knock on the door. I continue waiting and called the student to come down. They never show. I drive to the next home where two step brothers wait outside with one of their Mom’s for my arrival. After an excited greeting I exchange a few words with the Mom as the students climb into the vehicle. As they shut the door the mom, laughing off her seriousness yells to me “protect my babies” and waves us off. We continue to the next house with a myriad of top 40 rap songs playing on the way. I arrive at the next house, in a different neighborhood to find a student sitting alone on the front steps waiting for me. He climbs in and we drive to the school where we stop in the building to fill up water bottles. We are greeted with huge smiles by the secretary and vice principal. They chat with the students and seek to build their excitement for a great expedition. The remaining student meets me at the bus with both parents who happily shake my hand, ask for details about that trip, and kindly ask for me to make a strap for their son’s glasses this year so he does not lose them to the Saint Croix River. We say our goodbyes and board the bus. The students promptly start retrieving all of the hidden snacks in their duffle bags and share as they settle into the two hour ride.
This short one hour of expedition prep teaches me so much. It teaches me that love and support are shown in a million ways. Students are empowered to make their own decisions, others are let go to experience something amazing despite their parents reservations and others are there because they personally see the value in the trip, even if their parents do not.
As educators, teachers, supporters, and instructors we are given the opportunity to support these students simply by showing up. We greet them with a smile; we drive across neighborhoods to get them where they need to be. We are consistently there. These students rely on us to show up. Despite everything else in our lives and theirs we need to show up. They are why I show up. For the moments where they ask me to be in their canoe because they are terrified of tipping, when they are worried about how I am going to get back to my car after I ride the bus with them, when they pick songs they know don’t have swearing in them because they know where our expectations of them, when they preform goofy dance moves with me just for fun, when they show me around the school because I don’t know where I am going, or when they offer me their last snack because they are not sure if I have any. These students change our lives just as much as we change theirs. They mold us into compassionate, fun, understanding people because they see us for who we really are. They are survivors who are now becoming leaders. They teach me each day that the world is a bright place and that “there is more in us than we know, and if we can be made to see it, perhaps we would be unwilling to settle for less” (Kurt Hahn).