While sitting in a doctor's office, I overheard two adults of apparent reasonable means discussing Buffalo Public School children. One said, "I teach these kids and I don't get how their parents send them to school dressed inappropriately, hungry and without their homework." The other listener said, "Some parents just don't care."
As I struggle to teach hundreds of impoverished, neglected and abused children, I remember when I was one of them. Poverty, immaturity and lack of education made parenting daunting for my mother when my father left her with three children under age 5. Children who are hungry, cold, scared and feeling worthless might have parents like I did, parents who don't know how to care.
It isn't an understatement to say that a village provided what my parents didn't or couldn't.
Sister Tarcisius had me come to school in the summer after second grade to help clean the classroom. This was a refuge from chaos at home. She nominated my family as the poorest in the parish for Christmas that year, and we won food that we could never afford.
My maternal grandparents rescued my siblings and me from parental neglect and abuse innumerable times. They provided basic food and clothes for survival.
Annabelle and Charlie, my friend Roseanne's parents, provided safe haven during my early teens. I could sleep peacefully in their home away from my mother's lover, who repeatedly raped me while my mother slept.
Sister Dolores soothed my grief when my brother was taken to Baker Hall due to poor parental support.
Sister Vitalis, my supervisor at Nazareth Nursing Home, taught me that death is natural and untimely when at 15, I bathed my first patient and she died.
Dr. Rose mentored me and had me enrolled in nursing school. I was content to work as a nurse's aide, but Dr. Rose saw a potential in me. No one in my family had ever finished high school.
John and Helen hired me to care for their baby and cook meals in their summer home. They provided housing and income while I attended college; more importantly, they introduced me to a world of endless possibility.
George, a dear friend, recognized my first major depression and brought me to a therapist, who taught me that it takes work to maintain mental health as much as physical health.
Eileen taught me how to joyfully parent my children, something I had rarely experienced. She re-awakened in me a love of reading that was planted by the librarians from the neighborhood library.
Mary Susan encouraged me to obtain my master's degree in library science, which has provided invaluable employment and benefits for my family. This career transition was vital when Frank recovered from brain tumor surgery.
Joan demonstrated communication skills that have guided me in understanding my daughter and others with autism.
Dr. A, a sensitive therapist, has helped me to focus on the positive.
Dr. K and Abby have detected and treated medical problems to avert painful disability.
Frank married me when I was 19 and has given me a safe, loving home for 39 years. He has encouraged my every success and disregarded all of my inadequacies.
My children and grandchildren make my life worth living.
If you had a parent who nurtured you to your greatest potential, or you are a nurturing parent, you are lucky. Thank you to all villagers not mentioned who helped me when my parents could not parent.