The little girl peered up at me with teddy bear eyes as she asked her question. She was just a few years older than my daughter was when see used to boldly inquire, “Who are you?” while gazing her deep blue eyes into mine.
The question from the little girl this morning made me smile. Wide and free. “I’m the yoga teacher,” I told her.
“Am I taking yoga? I hope I am.”
“I want to take yoga,” the boy beside her chimed in.
“What’s your name?” Another child joined in the conversation.
I resisted the impulse to gather the group of preschoolers ready to go outside for their recess, turn on some Kira Willey, and lead their eager bodies in an impromptu yoga class. Their faces were irresistibly sunny as though they had no idea it was raining just outside the windows. Instead, I gathered the registration forms together out of the envelope I had hung on the bulletin board just last week, and smiled my way home.
It was my third errand of the morning. Before collecting the registration forms from the two Montessori schools, I had dropped off a bag at the high school. A post-it labeled it for the writing teacher, but it was for one of her students. A girl very different from those three exuberant young children in the preschool classroom. What a difference a dozen years can make in a life.
She had never said a word, not even in introduction. Perhaps the teacher had overlooked her on purpose because she was shy. But I had seen the shrug of her shoulders and the head bowed a little further towards the table. The head that never looked up in participation for the hour-and-half I was there.
“I see you,” I wanted to whisper in her ear. Not in the tone of a creepy stalker, but with the words of understanding. “I’ve sat in that seat too. Many a time,” I wanted to tell her, but didn’t.
I didn’t because it was not my classroom, and I did not know her story. Sensitive to the fragility of the teenage mind, I kept quiet, like her. But I couldn’t forget about her. Although she was the only one in the classroom that never said a word, to me she was just as important the eager participants who sat around her. Even though she looked like a forgotten island. Or, an island that wanted to be forgotten.
She reminded me of me, but also someone who wasn’t me. I may never know her story. Why she chooses to wrap into herself. But, I ache for what she has lost, already. Perhaps she was once like that little girl with the happy brown eyes who thought nothing of asking a stranger who she was. I’d like to think so, but this also makes me sad.
I don’t know if she’ll read the book I offered her in return for not acknowledging her presence, and for not knowing how to bridge her island for fear of further harm. She may not read even the first word, and that’s okay. I hope she reads the card, though. I think she will. I hope she realizes that someone saw her when she thought she wasn’t seen. Not by the eyes of judgement, but the eyes of understanding. And, I hope that one day she’ll realize she has a beautiful light inside of her that is waiting to be seen.