I deal in hope : Carolyn R Scheidies

Blog Unexpected welcome left positive memories

Over the years, I’ve heard horror stories of a teen moving to a different town, entering a new high school and being ignored or rejected. This seems especially true if the class is from a small town and have been together, often since kindergarten. But that was not my experience.

My pastor father answered a call to a small country church outside of Essex, Iowa when I was a high school junior. I didn’t know what to expect. Because I was still in a wheelchair back then, one I could scarcely wheel myself, and because we lived in rural Kansas, I’d taken my first two years of high school by correspondence. Now I was actually going to school.

That was daunting in so many ways. The high school was a tall red brick building with lots of stairs and no elevator. That posed a pretty big problem. I also couldn’t sit up to a desk. Turns out most of my classes were on the top floor so I, in my chair, was carried up those stairs. The janitor solved the problem of a desk by taking an old desktop and adding clamps that would fit on the arms of my wheelchair. I now had a desk that traveled with me from room to room.

But, what about the students? I was definitely an outsider. When I was taken up those stairs and put into my first class, the other students checked me out curiously. When I was introduced, I received smiles and welcome.

Lunchtime I couldn’t go downstairs to the lunchroom. Instead, a tray was brought up to me. This is when my class began to show who they were. The girls talked to the powers that be and insisted I shouldn’t have to eat alone. Many wanted to keep me company. Only a few were allowed each day so a rotation began. I was so thankful for class members who made sure I was welcomed. I started making friends.

During fire drills, male classmates grabbed my chair and rushed me downstairs and outside. Some of them argued as to who got to do this. At no time did my classmates exclude me or make me feel less-than because I was an outsider or because of my disabilities. I was included as much as possible in their activities. This came to a head when this class who had trouble agreeing on very much from their motto to their colors came together because of me.

Prom was approaching. They got me down in the gym to help decorate. They used my desk to hold decorations right where they could grab them. They made me part of the action. But when they discovered that I wasn’t going to the prom. They took this personally.

Because my dad had a conference to go to out of town and my mother didn’t drive, I knew I had no way to attend. I hadn’t purchased a gown and planned to let the whole thing slide. My classmates would have none of that. They held a class meeting about what to do. I was overwhelmed when a couple of the guys argued who would pick me up and take me home (not as a date, they already had those), they and their date would pick me up. Another offered to lend me a gown and another volunteered to come to my house to fix my hair. Thanks to my classmates, I did indeed go to the prom banquet, feeling like a princess.

The media may try to tell us we are a hateful, divided people, but I know different. I remember a class that went out of its way to welcome an outsider. This year my high school class celebrates its 50th-year reunion. I can’t wait to see everyone who made my time at Essex High very special indeed.

By Carolyn R Scheidies

Column Published in The Kearney Hub 7/22/2019

See all posts »

rss | Email list | blog | Poetry | Devotions | Politics | Books | About