I first met Ursula three days before school started. One of the teachers from her elementary school brought her to my office to introduce us. Ursula's mother had lost her battle with cancer a couple of weeks before, and they wanted me to know.
Ursula was about to start 7th grade, in all honors classes. Her elementary teachers loved her and were nervous about "letting her go."
She shook my hand with a smile and gave me a sweet Hello.
I knew in that moment Ursula would be OK.
As classes got underway, I reached out to her dad. I informed her teachers of her loss, asked them to watch out for her, and gave them carte blanche to send her my way at the first hint of any sadness or bumps as she transitioned to middle school.
I didn't see Ursula again until February.
That day I received a text from a counselor at an elementary school, asking me to check on Ursula. One of the elementary teachers she'd been close with had died suddenly the night before. She had just heard about this from another student and had texted the teacher I'd met months earlier.
We have a "no cell phone" policy during school hours, so this chain of communication shouldn't have happened. Thankfully, it did.
I called Ursula in minutes later. She knew why.
She cried her eyes out and poured her heart out.
I should know how to handle this! I should understand what to do! I go to group counseling twice a week because of my mom. But this is too much, THIS is too hard.
Ours was a long conversation. She did most of the talking. I held a safe space for her.
She finally decided it would feel best to go back to class and to the rhythm of her regular day. I assured her I'd be there if things got out of sync.
Ursula returned to my office at lunch time. She didn't want to interact with friends and asked if she could eat with me (I always "dine" at my desk. I know ... I've been coached on this about a hundred times.)
She explained she didn't want any more tears, which would surely flow again when her friends asked her how she was doing or tried to comfort her.
This is still just all so new, she confessed.
We ate, we chatted, and she noticed my Buddha board. I explained how you paint on it with water. Whatever you draw evaporates, and you can start over.
Just like every feeling, any thought.
Giggles followed. We talked about Disney movies and birthday parties.
Just before the bell rang, she painted me this picture. We shared a hug, then she headed off to class.
Resilience is a blessed traveling companion.
As much as my heart breaks when the young ones face life changing circumstances, I'm equally grateful to know that their journey through them will serve them well.
Not just on an ordinary Wednesday during lunch, but throughout their lives.
Ailing friends, lost parents. Fractured families, broken hearts.
These same lessons come packaged for us in midlife, too.
Despair over how you're ever going to handle it. Knowing deep down that you will.
You flex your "resilience muscles" yet again.
Many of us learned about our ability to bounce back when we were around 14; some of us were much younger.
All of us rely on the gifts resilience brings as we travel down our paths, often not realizing the dots we're connecting from those brave childhood moments.
The gift of a wonderful day almost always awaits us at the other end.