We recognized early that people were asking, "hi, how are you?" but not intending to hear the answer. Mark and I had a pact and a challenge: we would wander through the hallways at school and reply, "shitty, thanks, how about you?" and see how many people listened to our response.
The morning came, and I was sharing with my parents what I was about to do in case there were ramifications for saying 'shit' at school. You see, Mark and I were the Captain of the Basketball teams for the boys and girls teams, respectively, and we knew that within the school, the teachers and students respected us a little bit differently than others in the school.
We met at the old lockers and got our story straight. We both had Math with the same teacher, so we were going to talk about our findings in that class. Mr. D. was an easy teacher to get along with; after he taught the lesson, we had more than enough time to finish our work and do other homework.
It started before the homeroom bell. "Hey girl, how's it goin'?" Two girls with braces, probably in grade nine, asked me.
I looked up and said, "shitty, thanks and you?"
They both looked at one another and started to laugh. I guess their way of dealing with uncomfortableness was to laugh awkwardly.
Next, it was Mark's turn. He was in Mrs. Lee's homeroom. She greeted him at the door.
"Hello, Mark. Nice to see you, and how are you today?"
"I'm shitty, Mrs. Lee."
At the same time, he answered, another two students came into the room, so Mrs. Lee was busy greeting them and fluffed off Mark. During the first-period class, there were no other incidents.
But during the class changes for period two, Mark and I had at least thirty exchanges where our responses were, "shitty, and you?" to which we received a myriad of answers - none of which were close to dealing with the fact we both were feeling bad.
At lunchtime, we managed to find at least fifteen more people who heard what we said and kept moving so as not to feel uncomfortable and not deal with us, as they didn't have the time nor did they care.
It wasn't until period three that someone stopped and made a difference. Mr. D. was a great Math teacher and had three girls of his own. He was married to a wonderful lady who also had some learning issues of her own (hearing impaired).
Frank D asked me how I was today and when I answered, "shitty, and you?' He dropped his books on the table, grabbed me by my shoulders, and asked me while looking straight into my eyes, "how can I help?" in his most sincere voice.
The response so moved me. Frank D took me outside the classroom and said, "I'm concerned about you. You look thin, and you look tired. Is everything okay at home? I could discuss my issues with an adult who was no longer my Math teacher.
Mark told me later that he did the same thing with him too. We were blown away by his genuineness and his presence at the moment with us. He dropped everything and took the time to speak with us to ensure we were okay.
I remember Mark and me sitting in the cafeteria after school commenting along the lines of, "so that's what it must be like to have an attentive father."
Mark was the product of a later-in-life pregnancy after his parents went years without a child after having had Mike early on in their marriage. The gap between Mike and Mark was at least twenty years.
That year was the year that awards were given out to teachers for specific strengths and connections that they made with seniors. Mark and I pushed for everyone to pick Frank D for two awards. Most an excellent teacher and a most incredible teacher. Just because we thought he hit the profile for both awards.
We wanted him to be in the limelight for a change as he was usually a behind-the-scenes guy. Frank D was not vying for any award at all, and he probably never gave a second thought to the time he spent with either of us that day when he took some time out of his busy day to help us through a rough patch. But to us, it meant the world. For that, we wanted him recognized.
The evening for the Athletic Awards, Student Council Awards and Faculty Awards came, and we were all sitting together awaiting to hear Frank D get called up to the front for his awards. When he got called the first time, he was caught so off guard that his face turned a bright red, and he genuinely humbled.
When he reached the second award, the entire senior class stood in an ovation and chanted: Frank D, Frank D, Frank D until he wiped a tear from his eye.
He got to the mic, pointed at Mark and me, and said, "you two, I knew you had something up your sleeve, but this? Since I've been a teacher here, I've never received either of these awards. But to receive them both in one year is not only a compliment but a testament to the students we have as seniors this year. You all have excellent taste!
With that, he smiled the biggest smile we ever saw, and he jubilantly took his hardware and sat back down for the rest of the awards.
After the ceremony, his wife, Sue, asked if I would take my picture with Frank D because she said, "he knows that you were responsible for the rest of the seniors voting him in, and he is grateful."
About two weeks after the ceremony, Frank D put up some pictures of the awards night. He plastered our picture right smack dab in the centre of the collage. It made Mark, and I feel good knowing such a simple bit of recognition had made such a difference to the man who had made such a difference to us by his simple gesture of kindness.