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The Toughest Job in the World

The Sand Dollar

       So many of them flit into my dreams, unchanged by time. They remain frozen in my subconscious, as the elementary students they were. I don’t get to see what they become or how they live as adults. They were my life for 180 school days and then they were gone.

        As I scanned a newspaper, I received a devastating student update. In casual and cruel black and white print, a name leapt at me. My memory linked a face to the name of a murder victim. In the classroom, he had the ability to enrage me one minute and drive me to hysterical laughter the next. He would do anything to entertain. He was full of jokes, songs, and intelligence. He also loved conflict. He got to me like no other student that year. I had conversations with him, begging him to use his intellect and leadership skills to his advantage. He would nod, smile broadly, and dance away.

        I always wondered if I got through to him. Reading the article through blurred eyes, I saw I hadn’t. I knew his story now. It ended on a blood-covered sidewalk with him riddled with bullets. His name wouldn’t be on any college rosters or any corporate paychecks, just on a headstone.

        I was mad. He wasn’t my first lost boy. Others had died the same way. But even now, no one got to me like him. I stormed down the beach, picturing him in one of my wedding photos. A bunch of kids showed up at the church that day and got in a picture. But he is the star, smirking up at me... an 11-year-old in leather. I smashed my heels in the sand, cursing him. So much wasted, so much lost.

        Then the ocean dropped a perfect, unbroken sand dollar. I hadn’t found one for years. Now one found me. I chose to believe it was a gift from him. He could always make people smile. I’ll be sure to thank him if he ever dances into a dream.

Stacey Curran Conway, 36
Wakefield, MA

 
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