Thank You for the Opportunity

After a few days of summer-like weather, it is raining on California today. Perfect for a book signing.

I am grateful that two 7th and 8th grade teachers at my children’s former middle school have asked me to visit their students with copies of my novel.

“It’s just great that we can give you an opportunity,” one of them told me when I thanked her for having me over. “You gave us so much of your time,” she added.

I did give some of my time to my children’s schools over the years, but I never thought of “getting” something in return. Between writing workshops, book fairs, art programs, I did spend hours in elementary and middle school. And I loved – almost – every minute of it.

When my children were little, I quickly realized that most of what I learned and needed to know came through their own schooling. Language and culture are taught and, more importantly, lived in schools.

No wonder a school is, in my opinion, immigrants’ best friend.

I figured that volunteering at school was a wonderful way to be with my children and their classmates, to get to know their friends and teachers, and to help the same overwhelmed teachers.

And meanwhile, I was learning the Pledge of Allegiance, One, Two, Buckle my Shoe, the fifty states, Native-American legends, the Constitution, everything you need to know about the school dances and assemblies, the rituals of cafeteria lunches and after school sport practice. Of course, children’s literature was my favorite subject.

So, I thought, listening to the teacher, this is true that in the end everything falls into place.

We give and we receive. It’s not necessarily immediate and certainly doesn’t mean that we should do things to get things. What it means though is that teachers and children alike always remember the gift of time.

So when your turn comes to introduce your new picture book or novel, they are eager to invite you.

I had forgotten the time I gave, because it never felt like a chore to be in class. Okay, sometimes, I thought that a long hike or some window-shopping – I’m still French, after all – would have been nicer than being in a stuffy classroom with thirty kids. In all honesty, these moments were rare, and I really looked forward to being at school.

And a few years later, everything good that has happened to my book and me since it has been published, has been linked to teachers, librarians, children who wanted to thank me. For my time?

It’s my turn to thank them.

For the “opportunity”.

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