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Just a piece of paper. . .

October 10, 2010

I stepped into the seventh grade literature class to watch and discuss scenes from the movie “Freedom Writers”.  A boy greeted me with “I know you!”  I smiled, thinking of the time spent over the years with students at SMS.  I assumed he remembered me from another class, the hallways, or at some school event.  He said, “You talked to my grandparents.  You gave them a piece of paper for me to sign.  I signed it and it’s in a frame on my bedroom wall.  It’s my promise to stay in school and to not do drugs or join a gang.”

It took me a minute to shift gears and realize his grandparents must have come to a parent involvement night when he was a fifth grader.  We had watched “InsideOut”, a documentary about the epidemic of school drop outs and the value of staying in school.  The parents were given certificates to take home to their children.  They were encouraged to talk with their kids about their education, asking their fifth graders to “contract” with them to choose school instead of dropping out.

Positive outcomes are always good news.  Coming from a seventh grade boy made it even more special.  As I replayed the scene throughout the day, I began to think less about my part in the outcome and more about the power of a piece of paper.  For two years a piece of paper hanging on a boy’s wall had reminded him of his grandparent’s commitment to him and their investment in his future.  That framed piece of paper was their celebration of his commitment displayed in a prominent place.  It was a subtle, daily message that they expected him to keep his part of the bargain.  A paper statement of their belief in him.  And he clearly got it.  Just a piece of paper, printed in bulk from my computer, handed out to multiple fifth grade parents.  Just a piece of paper, turned into so much more by grandparents and a grandson who believe in possibility.

My youngest daughter created a time capsule in a shoebox as an eighth grade science assignment.  She spent several days filling her box with bits and pieces of her life.  I didn’t know the contents of her time capsule until ten years later when the science teacher, now administrator, brought my daughter’s box to me.  I raised the lid for a walk down memory lane through the keepsakes chosen by my daughter to represent her eighth grade life.

There were snapshots, trinkets, movie tickets, drawings, and pieces of paper…post it notes…from me, dropped in a lunch bag, stuck in the front of a binder.  Notes that said, “I love you”, “Have a great day!”, “I’m proud of you.”.  Pieces of paper that an eighth grade daughter chose to keep at a time when becoming a person separate from her mother was part of her job.

Remember the MasterCard commercials that listed items one at a time followed by their price tag.  Then the resonant voice read the last thing on the list, usually something involving human connection.  After a pause for effect, the voice said, “Priceless.” The commercial reminded us the value of some things goes way beyond a dollar amount on a price tag.

Sometimes a piece of paper is just a piece of paper.  Sometimes a piece of paper is a relationship, a child’s drawing hung with a magnet on the refrigerator door, a reading award, a “have a great day” post it note in a lunch sack, or a boy’s signature on a certificate that says “I will stay in school”.  That’s when a piece of paper becomes. . . “Priceless”.  Create a priceless relationship moment in someone’s life today.  All it takes is a piece of paper.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 11, 2012 5:01 pm

    This is Beautiful!

    • February 11, 2012 10:08 pm

      Thank you, Jen! It was a real moment for me discovering the post it notes in my daughter’s time capsule. Those are the “tiny” priceless moments in life.


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