The ads say Christmas is about buying cars or diamonds. But in Richard Swerdlow’s long-ago Christmas, it was about something much, much better.
For teachers, some years are rougher than others. And that group of kids, about 25 years ago, was rough. To a new teacher, it seemed like every problem kid in school was in my 3rd grade class; kids who were bullies, kids who back-talked, kids who were always absent. By December, I was exhausted, looking forward to Christmas vacation.
And then there were the different types of problem kids; the sad kids. Jimmy was one of those. I didn't know much about him, only that he'd been removed from his parents by child protective services and placed in a group home. He rarely spoke and never broke a rule. With such a rowdy group, I barely noticed him.
But Christmas was coming, and leading my line of 8-year-olds from recess, I asked Jimmy about the holiday in the group home. Just another day, he told me. But, he said, he was hoping maybe he would get a basketball. He had always wanted a basketball of his own.
And that evening, in a toy store, gift shopping for nieces and nephews, I unexpectedly came across a display of basketballs. I had a long list of gifts to buy, and, as a new teacher, not much money to buy them with. But, still, staring at those basketballs, Jimmy came to mind. I sighed and put one in my cart.