It was a seasonably warm but overcast Wednesday when I showed up for my weekly parenting class at Moreno Court.
I began the weekly sessions in 2017, with the goal of helping parents build the skills they need to be good first teachers for their children to help prepare them for kindergarten and for life.
But this typical September afternoon turned out to an atypical experience I’ll remember for a lifetime.
This day after my birthday, I walked inside the community room to a chorus of voices singing “happy birthday.” Balloons stretched to the ceiling above a cake, ice cream and a birthday card stuffed with a gift card.
Not often am I surprised but this moment of gratitude caught me completely off guard. These women showed me that the time we’ve spent together, talking and laughing, sharing and learning, has made more of an impact than I had ever imagined.
One longtime participant said: “Mr. Reggie, I don’t think you realize how important you have been in my life. You have given me so much knowledge and confidence and belief in myself and my children. I am so glad that you came into my life. I love you so much for what you are doing for us here.”
From the beginning, I’ve been working to build good relationships and a modicum of trust and respect among a group of mostly underserved, single mothers whose lives haven’t always been a bed of roses.
I often say that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
I’ve given them my time, talent and hopefully some helpful tips to improve their lives and the lives of their young children.
All I really expected from them in return was their regular attendance and undivided attention during the weekly sessions, and ultimately for them to become better people and parents.
Gratitude has been a popular topic of discussion and practice at SFOC in recent months, with numerous newspaper columns, symposiums and podcasts on the subject.
At Moreno Court on this day in September, I witnessed firsthand the warm feeling of unexpected gratitude and it brought to mind an old Malayan proverb that says: “One can pay back the loan of gold, but one dies forever in debt to those who are kind.”