They marched like little soldiers into their strange, new, unfamiliar buildings on Monday morning. In khaki shorts and button-down polos, they looked tidy, put-together, and more than a little bit nervous.
I felt like I was throwing them to the wolves.
And when I anxiously picked them up on Monday afternoon — maneuvering blindly through the carpool lines — they emerged with smiles, with reams of paperwork to sign, with new friends and new experiences.
They’re resilient, these kids. And I’m so damn proud of them.
Before we embarked on this Southern journey, I was constantly reminding them that it was going to be an adventure. That we were going to experience things we’d never experienced before. That we were expanding our horizons, broadening our friendship-base, strengthening our family bonds.
And miraculously, all of those things have come to fruition.
“Did Starkville seem very different from Zionsville?” I asked each of them.
“Well, yeah, because there’s a cop with a taser and a gun in our school,” George proclaimed.
“Dude, there’s three of them in my school,” Sam trumped.
“Don’t tase me, bro!” they all laughed simultaneously.
“Our lockers are so much smaller,” Mary Claire said. “And the bottom hinge of mine is falling apart. Every time I open it, I’m afraid the door is going to fall off.” A far cry from the battery-powered locker chandeliers in Zionsville, indeed.
“But the food is awesome!” George added. “Best lunch I’ve ever had!”
Sam made a new friend named Delta. It doesn’t get much more Southern Belle than that. And as I broke into a rousing rendition of “Delta Dawn” on the way home, his exasperated eye-rolling was one thing that hadn’t changed during our journey from Indiana to Mississippi.
“I like it here,” Gus said. “I’ve made lots of new friends, and the people are really nice.”
“I’m the highest-level reader in my class,” George announced.
“There are some idiot boys in my music class,” Mary Claire scoffed. “But I met a really nice new friend named Maggie.”
As I listened to their stories, my chest welled with pride. They didn’t cure cancer or win a Nobel Prize or become President of the United States of America.
But they adapted. And they prospered. And they thrived. They — the ones whom I am responsible for teaching — are teaching me. They are making their way, they are blazing new trails, they are positive and inspirational in the face of change and uncertainty.
And right now, that is more than enough.