Dear Abby (Helen)

By Helen Row Toews

April 20, 2017 12:00 AM

Dear Abby (Helen)

I’m sure, at some point in your life, you’ve had the chance to speak a few words of encouragement or wisdom into someone’s life?
It can be life changing for both parties.
Such openings come each and every day when you work with children.
It’s a responsibility never taken lightly by those who are in education, at least by the teachers I know.
Even something as simple as a smile or nod can bring reassurance to a small worried face, and a few genuine, caring words can mean all the difference in a child’s day.
Of course kids aren’t the only ones who can benefit from kindness and positive reinforcement.
Words are powerful tools. I’m sure we can all think of someone who made an impression in our lives with something supportive they said along the way.
Recently I attended an information evening at Lloydminster Comprehensive High School with my daughter who will be attending this fall.
Kids entering high school are encouraged to think seriously about their future, and carefully make the important decisions that ultimately shape it.
Teachers instruct not only math and language arts, etc., but they help prepare each child to face the world as they make these first steps towards independence and autonomy.
It was with all of this in mind that, some days later, I responded to a small, persistent voice several seats back on my bus.
Up till this point the most pressing issue at hand had been avoiding potholes on a bumpy grid road, but now this: “Mrs. Toews, Johnny is scared he might grow up.”
I gathered myself with a start; this was a significant moment!
My mind raced for the right words to hearten this youngster who was clearly concerned about leaving his childhood behind.
I glanced back in my mirror.
Yes, there he was looking soulfully at me over the back of the vinyl seat.
His eyes opened wide with unspoken fear and a lower lip trembled ever so slightly.
Good grief, this child was looking to me for some strong message of cheer; some advice which would carry him through the next few years with a glad heart and renewed purpose.
OK—so he’s only eight years old—what of it!
He still looked as though the weight of the world was on his shoulders.
I pulled into the next yard, stopped the bus and opened the door for the next passenger.
Shuffling his feet out into the aisle he inched forward in his seat and stared down the aisle at me with mute appeal in his glistening eyes.
Help, they seemed to say.
I began to utter words of reassurance and promise for his success in life.
I outlined at some length his bright prospects and the assurance of great destiny.
Warming to my subject I raised a finger above my head and shook it with conviction as I expanded on this worthy theme.
The boy smiled wanly, then leaned a suddenly ashen face upon the seat in front of him and I saw his lips moving as he whispered some further instruction to the original spokesman.
Wow, I thought with a swell of pride, I’m really getting through to this kid.
I opened my mouth to deliver a confident closing remark when the spokesman interrupted loudly, “Stop Mrs. Toews, you’ve got it all wrong! Bobby didn’t say he was scared about growing up. He said he was scared he might THROW UP.”
Needless to say I clapped my mouth shut and attended to the poor child’s needs immediately.
He hadn’t required an orator; just a bit of fresh air and a bucket.
I guess I should add to my earlier statements—one must also be sensitive to the needs of others before delivering unsolicited advice.
Helen was born in Maidstone, SK. The married mom of four has lived in the Lloydminster area most of her life. She lives on the family ranch near Marshall, Sask. and works as an EA and school bus driver in the local school. She has a deep-rooted appreciation of ranching, farming and all aspects of country living.

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