Charley’s World Episode Seventeen

Charley’s idea of having Bea’s outlook on life become the antidote for the negative attitudes of the students in the Alternative Learning Center was faced with a problem. Without a degree, she couldn’t be hired to work with children. “Charley, I have an idea, but I hope you don’t think it is racist,” said Mike, the head of the center. “I understand that Bea is a house cleaner. We have an opening for a janitor. Would she be willing to do that job?”

“She probably would, but that would defeat my purpose of having her become a role model for the students. I’m assuming that janitors work in the evening?”

“We could have her start in the late afternoon. Many of the students hang out here after school so she could interact with them at that time.”

When Charley asked if Bea would be interested in the job, the later afternoon shift actually became attractive because she could still maintain her work with her current clients who had become like family to her.

When Bea began her work, you would have thought she was invisible to the students who remained at the center. Most of them came from privileged families with maids and cleaning ladies who were just part of the woodwork and rarely noticed. All that changed when Bea brought one of her grandchildren to the center. Her grandchild became an instant attention getter, and that led to conversations with Bea.

The students assumed that Bea was the mother of the child. They were amazed to learn that she was actually her grandmother. That led Bea to share her story. Questions began to flow, and Bea used this opportunity to express how she approached life. This became a natural opening for the students to reflect on their own lives.

From that day forward, students would ask if they could talk with Bea. She welcomed the opportunity but insisted they talk as they worked. Bea became the counselor that Charley had hoped she would become. Bea couldn’t have been happier. While the school system wouldn’t allow Bea to be a counselor by title, Mike was able to have her pay raised to that of a counselor.

As Charley reflected on his experience of helping Bea discover her talent, he realized that the entire process was one that had to happen naturally. Nothing in the development of Bea’s talent was structured or planned. It just happened. And Charley thought that’s the way the Learning Center had developed.

While his experiences with Bea were a delight, that was not the case with Sam.

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“The only disability in life is a bad attitude.”  – Scott Hamilton (figure skater and cancer survivor)