There is a mentally and physically challenged girl named Alexis at the school where I teach. Alexis is tall, has dark hair, is in the fifth grade, and has an appearance that displays her obvious disabilities. An educational assistant is with her at all times to help her walk and do things other people don’t think twice about doing.
This Valentine’s Day I walked up to Alexis and gave her one of those Valentine’s cards that kids give out. I think it had the Little Mermaid or maybe Shrek on it. I also gave her a piece of candy, maybe a bite-sized Snickers. Then I whispered in her ear, “Alexis, you are beautiful! That is why I always come over to you and say ‘Hi!’ It’s because you are so pretty.”
Alexis blushes now every time she sees me, and she behaves like a girl with a crush. I realized that I hadn’t just said something nice; I had created a new and huge responsibility for myself. Now I must be extra thoughtful when I see her coming, to give her an expressive wink, an affectionate hello, or an especially attentive look, so that she knows my Valentine’s whisper wasn’t a fleeting moment.