Monday, March 17, 2008

Dear Kadir Nelson

Mr. Nelson, if you're out there, I really want to tell you about this kid I love.

He lives in the homeless shelter in Salt Lake City. He has a really rough home life. Dad's in jail. Mom's on drugs. This year, by some amazing graceful miracle, this ten-year-old has learned to LOVE books. I think reading has become his refuge. First, he read and took very good care of my precious, signed copy of Malcolm X, By Any Means Necessary, by Walter Dean Myers. It took him five minutes to read each page back in September, but he was so determined to read that book. Finishing it took him about six weeks. In December he discovered Darren Shan and has since read every single Cirque Du Freak and Demonata book.

Last week I handed him We Are the Ship and he carries it around school and back and forth to the shelter like it's a million dollar prize. He comes up and shows me the illustrations and stories and can barely contain his admiration for those players. His is a fierce admiration that is settling into the deep roots of his tender little soul.

I can only speculate here, but this is what I believe: I believe those stories, of determination and triumph in the face of horrible adversity and discrimination will give this kid deeper wells of strength than any other forms of "help" that I can imagine.

Teaching kids with such steep slopes all around them can sometimes be very difficult work, but with books like yours and children like this one, I consider it a great privilege to be working out in the trenches.

From the very bottom of my heart: THANK YOU!!!

(This true story/letter actually started out as a comment at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.)


TRMite said...

awesome letter! you should go that extra step and actually send it to him. will make his day you know.

AMY S. said...

hey trmite--the specialness of having a signed copy of the Malcolm X bio was somehow important to this whole story too! You'd never guess how many little prayers I uttered that my dear gift would come back with him.

Mary Lee said...

Amy, that immense trust you had (or pretended to have) with the Malcom X bio has obviously paid off! You MUST make SURE Mr. Nelson gets this letter. Powerful stuff.

Megan Germano said...

What a heart wrenching story! I don't know that heart "wrenching" is the right word, but it "pulled on my heart strings!" :) Thanks for sharing!

Blink said...

You have truly given your student two lifelong gifts. Your example of generosity and a good book to read. Send that letter to Mr. Nelson today:)

AMY S. said...

Mary Lee, Megan, and Blink-
Thank you! I sent it!