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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Don't worry about the rules...

Part of my regular before-work routine includes a few minutes of NPR time each morning during my commute. This morning, I was reminded of an anniversary that I might have otherwise missed in the hustle of my life, and I am thankful for the reminder. Eight years ago today, during my very first month of teaching, hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.

A couple of weeks after her arrival, Houston started receiving some of her victims. I received several new students...they called them refugees. Some were silent. Others were violent. Most of them had lost everything and almost everyone they had ever known or loved.

My class was working on personal narratives at the time, and I shared the assignment with one of my new students. He came from the heart of New Orleans, the ninth ward. He had the most wonderful and welcoming smile I had ever seen. My personal life was a complete mess at the time; I often struggled to get out of bed. But this kid had lost everything...and he was smiling.

I told him about the assignment.

"I cain write, missus. I don' know the rules."

"Don't worry about the rules. Just worry about your story. That's all I care about."

He nodded, took the notebook paper from my hand, grabbed a pencil out of his back pocket, and started writing.

I don't remember if it was that day or a couple of days later when he danced up to my desk with a smile and slapped the page proudly in front of me.

"I did it."

There wasn't a single punctuation mark. Most of the spelling was not correct. But it was one of the most moving things I will ever read. He wrote like he spoke, with a flowing rhythm that was musical. His handwriting even resembled musical notes on the lined paper. It was poetic.

Almost eight years ago today I met one of the most beautiful writers and people I will ever meet. I hope he is doing well.

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