Glamor portrait, 1953 in a borrowed gown.
The program Sunny and her students presented that October night broke all recent records for both attendance and enthusiasm. Most of the children she taught had never had any of the extra curricular music, dancing, or sports classes that are so common today. Performing for an audience was a first for them, while cheering was a first for their parents. Most who came that night to see their youngsters recite poetry, hadn’t even thought about poetry since learning nursery rhymes. But they drank in the words from their own children because they communicated emotions that had never been spoken.
So naturally, the principal immediately put Sunny in charge of the Christmas program, changing all her previous lesson plans.
For that occasion, she put most of the students into a Greek Chorus reciting passages from Luke to tell the Christmas story while others, in makeshift costumes, pantomimed the drama. On the other side of the stage, the school chorus presented Christmas carols at appropriate intervals. Once again the auditorium was filled with cheering families, creating the second major victory accomplished by a novice in her first semester of teaching.
Ever so slowly a new attitude toward school began emerging.
Probably the main reason for Sunny’s immediate success at this particular school was that while students and teacher shared the same financial status, Sunny staunchly maintained a totally different attitude. Her mantra since becoming the sole bread-winner for her family was, “I may be broke, but I refuse to be poor.” With that attitude she lived a lifestyle of great anticipation coupled with hard work far different from those who saw themselves as “I-can’t-do-anything much-because-I’m-so- poor.” While Sunny had reveled in developing her mind with good music, great books, and lofty ideals, most of these families had cheated themselves by considering such as frivolities only for the “rich people.”
But, as you recall from previous posts, Sunny reacted to financial roadblocks by looking for ways around, over, or through them. Such as:
Slowly stashing away enough money to pay for one year of college, so she could at least get a taste of higher education whether or not she got to finish a degree.
Choosing a college in a town where a relative owned a house that she could live in rent free if she fixed it up and kept it up, unlike many renters.
Taking advantage of every concert, play, and program that her Student Activity Fee covered. And insisting the kids take advantage of these chances for enrichment with her.
Cheerfully giving up owning a car while living in a small city, realizing that walking is healthful for the whole family.
Eagerly accepting any part-time or temporary position to make enough money to continue her degree program.
Completely understanding that attitude is far more important than bank account status. It’s never about how much money you have.
Seeing someone in the same boat financially as their own families, but with great energy and a can-do attitude, probably did more to help the student body that year than any subject matter she taught.
Unfortunately, January, 1954 brought a little known infectious disease to the school and Sunny was one of several victims. She was sick a week before her mystified physician put her in the hospital. There they diagnosed her problem as hepatitis, probably what we now know as hepatitis A. After a week at Methodist Hospital in Oak Cliff, she came home for eight weeks of recuperation before returning to school in March.
Copyright 2018 by Kaye Fairweather