Previous Challenge Entry
Topic: Elementary School (07/19/04)
TITLE: When the Walls of Littleton Elementary Spoke
By Joanne Malley
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As I took a closer look, I noticed that some of the letters in the Littleton Elementary School sign were blackened out with spray paint.
We pulled off to the side of the road and I fixed my eyes on the abandoned structure which was once my second home. I slowly got out of the car and approached the building. An anxiety crept over me for reasons that weren’t clear. The empty stillness was almost eerie, for it was once alive with laughter, learning and hopeful children.
The memories I often unpacked and re-packed through the years were so vivid now, and I was brought back to the time where many feelings and experiences helped to shape my future path.
There were obvious test anxieties, insecurities, friends, class trips and the occasional lonely lunches without a friend. A memory or two of being teased crept into the forefront of my memory banks as well. But, as I continued to mentally retrace my steps through the halls and classrooms of my elementary school, I couldn’t help but wonder about the other children who walked a totally different path than I.
I could almost be certain that for each smiling face and cheerful little child, there was one with a pain too deep to imagine. As I peered through a small opening in a broken window, I shed a tear for the child I said good-bye to long ago. I also shed another for the children whose stories were too painful to hear.
As I continued to scan the empty room before me, I could almost sense the walls of Littleton Elementary speak to me.
They were telling me of ten-year old, Paige Porter, who was repeatedly molested and abused by her father. She often walked the hallways day after day without being noticed by a single soul. Disappearing into a world that only she knew was a painful burden to bear. Fearful to invite anyone in, she remained alone and lonely until she met her fate with a bottle of pills before making it to Jefferson High.
I faintly heard the walls speak again as words of despair filtrated through my ears. The boy across the hall in Mrs. McCurdy’s class, Donald Waters, was blind from birth. During his summer vacations, he would practice walking the halls with his mother and his cane to make sure he could find his way to his new dark classroom for the coming year. Perhaps he wished he were deaf instead, for the taunting and belittling words that he heard left a hurtful mark on his soul. Keeping his books as his only friends helped to dull the pain of his blindness and loneliness.
While making my way back to the car, I turned around to take one last look.
“Are you ok?” asked my husband with a concerned voice.
My sullen mood must have been speaking loud and clear.
“Yeah. It’s always hard to say goodbye to old friends.”
As we pulled away from the curb, I left all the sad stories as well as the happy times behind. The walls of the school may one day be knocked down, but the memories will remain deep within the hearts of the students forever.
Despite the many sad stories each elementary school can speak, there are stories of hope to hear as well. The walls also reveal to us that no matter who the child is and how deep the pain, our Heavenly Father experiences it all with us. Only a few of us ever realized that He was waiting at the door of each lonely heart as well as the door to every classroom.
Struggles, pain and difficulties will be present for every child who walks across the threshold of their elementary school. However, once inside its walls, if we listen closely enough, we can always hear them speak about the Lord’s loving care.