Robin sat at her desk toward the back of the room, sobbing softly. Her chin hung low and touched her crisply ironed dress. It was the first year of voluntary integration in our school. I sat a few rows over, also in the back of the room, watching her. Miss Ewing saw her too and called her up to her desk.
It must have been a long walk for Robin because, by now, all the second and third graders in the combination class saw her too. Whispers and sobs were all we could make out as we grew silent, listening, leaning in to the drama.
“Beverly is my only friend.” That sentence came through clearly. And then everyone turned to look at me. Hot tears started running down my cheeks, too.
I felt bad for Robin – she and Deborah were the only black students in our class and they didn’t seem to know each other. I also felt guilty – and confused — because I didn’t know why Robin said that.
What had I done? Smiled at her across the room, whispered something to her as we stood in the pencil-trimming line, invited her to join me in a 7-year-old playground scenario, sat beside her at lunch? I don’t think I knew then and I surely don’t remember now — many years later.
What matters is that in some innocent and awkward way, Robin and I had made a connection.
As years have passed since that morning in 3rd grade, I have tried to be open to those moments that change us and bless us — those moments when a comment or expression thunders across the space between two people, reminding us of what is and what is possible — those moments that reveal the preciousness of the person next to us, the softness of God’s love reaching down to us, and the power of the connection that binds us to each other and to God – those moments that make us understand the quote: “We do not remember days; we remember moments.”