The stars were handed out for one good deed or another. There were kids helping, kids sharing, and kids that just sat quietly. The stars fell upon them, landing light and softly. Each star gave its owner a chance to shine brighter, and each child gave its star all the tenderness that such things warranted.
Children clenched their pencils with gentle fists and scratched their names across the points of paper with anxiety and boldness. The marked stars were then dropped into a small box barely big enough to hold the universe, and they were tossed with exaggerated motion until everyone was satisfied. Then one star was plucked from the cosmos of cardboard and one smiling child floated toward the prize bin while a galaxy of hope fizzled into the hole that spread behind them.
Even in days where everyone is a winner, not everyone wins all of the time. It is a matter of chance that increases greatly based upon the actions of the week and the strength of timing with occasional bouts of character. The stars are earned, etched with names, and pinned to the sky with promise. Then they are boxed, spun, and forgotten in an instant—all but one, and that is when the force of twenty frowns springs one smile forward like a rocket from the carpet. The launch is short and fabulous.
The classroom was filled with parents squeezing into chairs too small and small talk too big for children. It was decorated in early first grade arts and crafts, and the air was fresh with clean carpet, new paint, and other smells that fade fast beneath the sweet sweat of sun-kissed children. The teacher addressed the adults about the upcoming year, the plans, the future. The students were nothing but names across the desktops, and parents introduced themselves accordingly. Their kids were home, reading books and slowly sleeping.
The teacher explained the concept of stars, the how of earning them, and the prize bin that every constellation pointed toward. Then she talked for an extended time about one little boy that had filled his pockets with golden brilliance from acts of kindness, and how she had come to realize that he was taking said stars and sharing them with those that had not earned nearly as many. He thought it only right that those he cared for had their chances matched to his, and in caring for everyone he spread their chances plenty.
Stars may be given, taken, or thrown away, and they twinkle, shoot, and fall, but when stretched forever by small, warm hands, they shine upon us all. My son has taught me that.
Zane’s unselfish acts of kindness inspired his teacher to present him with the first Pride Award of the school year—no one was surprised but him.