Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Closed Doors

Tomorrow I go to my U.S. census training. I will be one of thousands of government employees attempting to get an accurate count of the people living in the United States. I will be recording data on a hand held computer. I will learn something of what is behind closed doors, and I will put it in a permanent record. There is a story behind every door and I hope to be able to tell some of that story with my statistical data.

Just recently, information from the 1860 US Census helped to pinpoint where my great grandfather, Henry Breisach, lived and died. And this helped us to do important Family History work, piecing together clues that help connect us to centuries past. Someone like me had taken the time to find out who was living in the home and record it to the best of their ability.

I actually worked the 2000 US Census when I was living in American Fork. I had just moved to Utah and was getting used to the grid system, which did help me quite a bit, when I was smart enough to use it. Now I get to work here in the Provo area, which I am quite familiar with. I'm really looking forward to this. I love being outdoors and walking. I like figuring things out and I like meeting people. So, if you see me wandering around the streets of Provo, know that I'm probably on the clock, getting my exercise and getting paid.

I met one of my best friends doing the Census in 2000. Patti Jones was a student, like me, going to BYU for the post bacheloreate program in Special Ed. That didn't start for a few months later, however. I noticed her in the Census training session. A pretty, vivacious, blond woman who was always tallking on her cell. She would get and take at least 3-5 calls every session. She usually left to take care of the call. I thought, wow, how popular she must be. I didn't even think that she might have kids who needed her attention, which she did. (And, she is indeed extremely popular and fun!) At the time I was living in much different circumstances than I am now. Truthfully, I was very lonely, homesick and missing my own children terribly. Doing the Census was something to help me ease the pain I was feeling. We didn't speak at that time--I just took mental note.

A few months later, when the BYU Special Education Certification program was underway, I encountered her again. It was crazy and busy. This time we spoke and I found her to be so friendly and approachable. She wasn't so busy to not be interested in me and be my friend. I found out that she, like me, had been recently divorced and devastated by the whole thing. She was bravely going on with her life, taking care of her children and trying to certify in Special Ed so that she could keep her job at Timp View High, teaching the Emotional Support Unit, a class made of boys and occasionally girls who are in youth custody and working to be mainstreamed back into the regular classroom. These kids cannot be successful in regular classrooms or life until their behavior is under control. Patti is fabulous at what she does. She has a heart of gold and gives these kids so much empowerment to do what they need to do and be successful. I've been able to help her in her classroom now and again and I absolutely love it. She makes big deals out of birthdays, good behavior, special events and even ordinary events. Out-of-pocket is how it usually ends up. Budgets are not big by any means.

Here, again, we're talking about closed doors. These kids have seen some pretty rough times in their lives and doors have closed for them. Patti's class is pretty much the last stop before prison or institutionalization. I've seen the behavior---not good. I've seen unprovoked attacks, bad language, hostile attitudes, delinquent records, failed academics, removal from school, and so on.

The good news is that I've seen some miracles, too. I've seen some boys/girls take hold of themselves and realize that they need to act now, and turn their lives around. I've seen them take an active interest in learning because in reality, at this late stage in their schooling, no one else will take responsibility for their education. I've seen them make moral decisions that foster trust and their privileges increase from there.

When the day comes that someone actually graduates or is actually mainstreamed into regular classrooms, it is indeed a celebration. It means that there is an achievement or gold star by their name. Notes are taken, attention is paid and somewhere a door will open. And maybe, because of that one success, another and another door will open. And somewhere because of the actions of one caring person, the light is allowed through. Thanks Patti!

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