All in a Day’s Duty

All in a Day’s Duty

From Chicken Soup for the Military Wife's Soul

All in a Day’s Duty

The greatest danger to our future is apathy.

Jane Goodall

One afternoon, my son and I sat quietly in the two seats outside the principal’s office, waiting our turn to meet with him. My son wasn’t in trouble, but my husband and I had concerns that needed to be discussed with the school. The principal, in turn, was waiting for my son’s teacher to arrive for our scheduled meeting and had asked us to have a seat in the foyer.

As the noon hour ended, the usual lunchtime bustle surrounded us: parents coming and going, teachers passing through, students running errands for teachers or taking care of business of their own. The secretary answered the constantly ringing telephone, and, as needed, orchestrated the flow of traffic.

During a brief lull in the activity a young boy walked in. His face was flushed and his hair tousled—normal for a little boy coming straight off the playground. By his size and stature, I guessed him to be a first-grader. He timidly approached the secretary’s desk.

“What do you need?” the secretary asked.

The young boy answered in such hushed tones that I couldn’t hear him.

“The nurse isn’t here,” the secretary said, “but wait right there and she should be back soon.” She motioned for him to stand in the doorway that led to the nurse’s office.

The phone rang again, and the secretary turned to answer it. The little boy nodded and did as he was told. When he walked past with downcast eyes, I realized the reason for his office visit. The front of his pants was wet. He’d had an accident and needed a change of clothing.

Quickly, I looked away. I shifted in my seat to try to give the little one some privacy and a sense of dignity in such a humiliating situation. I pulled my son close, hoping he’d never have to endure such an experience.

The bustle around us picked up again as the bell rang, and students and teachers hurried back to class. With each minute that passed, the little boy’s head hung lower. Would anyone come to his rescue?

Not the secretary, who sat at her desk sifting through her work, seemingly all but forgetting the little boy.

Not the nurse, who still had not returned to the office.

Not I, who sat just as uncomfortably as the little boy stood, trying to ignore the situation and not appear as if I were staring.

By now, the little boy had begun to cry silently. His shoulders shook and his head hung so low that no one noticed the tears streaming down his cheeks.

No one, that is, except for an airman who stood at the front of the office, waiting, too, for his appointment with the principal. Clad in full battle dress uniform and black combat boots, the airman walked across the room, knelt down and enfolded the sobbing child into his arms.

“It’s okay,” the airman said. “We’ll get you taken care of.”

The secretary looked up, saw the embrace and hustled over to the little boy and escorted him into the nurse’s office. The airman quietly stepped back and resumed his wait near the front door.

By then, my son’s teacher had arrived, and the principal called us into his office. The airman joined us. My son laced his fingers through his daddy’s. I squeezed my husband’s other hand.

Tracey L. Sherman

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