Several years ago, when I had some carpets and upholstery cleaned, the company I used sent a young man who unwittingly gave me a great gift. He didn’t do an exceptional cleaning job, but his pearl of wisdom was worth having hired him. He was quite gregarious and in one final bit of conversation before he left, he mentioned his stepchildren, stating he didn’t consider them stepchildren but bonus children. I immediately thought of my “bonus daughter,” a much more apt description of how I experience my stepdaughter, who is a treasure.
In addition to the gift of being the biological parent to my daughter, and a stepmother (bonus mother?) to my “bonus daughter,” I have been a foster parent, a “host mother” to our lovely German exchange student, and now am a mother-in-law to two extraordinary men, definitely bonuses. But I also think of many children I have worked with through the years, “bonuses” for me, children now well into adulthood and perhaps parents, maybe grandparents, themselves. I still recall them and wonder how their lives are going. One early experience has always stayed with me.
I was just out of college working at Headstart. Melvin, age four, was one of my students. I was fascinated with him. At recess he would seek out his two year old sister and walk around the playground with her. One day he engaged me in this conversation:
“Teacher, do you got a wife?”
“No, Melvin, I don’t have a wife. (And this being early ‘70s, and not 2020, I said):“Men have wives. Women have husbands.”
“Well, teacher, do you got a husband?”
“No, Melvin, I don’t have a husband.”
“Well, teacher, do you got children?”
“No, Melvin, I don’t have children.”
(Melvin, looking very puzzled, edging on distress): “Teacher, do you got a puppy?”
“No, Melvin, I don’t have a puppy.”
(Melvin, now clearly concerned): “Teacher, don’t you got nothin’?”
Now, his life was not without its problems. His father often never made it to pick him up because he had stopped at the neighborhood bar. We would call his mother, who would have to leave her job as a nurse to come get him. Yet, Melvin clearly had a sense of what was essential, vital to his wellbeing. I have never forgotten that conversation.
Perhaps it would make a huge shift in how we consider others if we think of them as “bonuses” in our lives. And likely we all could take a lesson from Melvin, who anchored himself in what was of paramount importance.
May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter. Shalom, Kate
Hope’s Café Bonus: Easy “kid snack” for all the “bonus children”(of any age 😊) in your life: Mix popcorn, pretzels, a favorite crunchy cereal, M&Ms (we like pretzel M&Ms), nuts or whatever other mix-ins that you prefer. Happy eating!