Do you ever wonder what goes on in the lives of people when money exchanges hands? Follow along and see where a special dollar bill lands.
Setting her belongs on her desk, Rachelle suddenly realized she hadn’t packed a lunch for the day. Being off for two weeks during the school’s annual winter break had spoiled her. Opening her wallet, she spotted the dollar bill with the words Smile, someone special loves you, written in red across the front of it. Yes, someone did, and her deceased husband was in his own way encouraging her to live life to the fullest.
By this time in her life Rachelle had planned to be retired from teaching, but three years ago her beloved Charlie had dropped dead from a massive heart attack. Continuing to work at the time seemed a better choice. Now she wasn’t so sure. Recently she had taken a chance and opened the door to dating again. Glancing at the classroom clock, Rachelle realized that she’d have to brave the food in the cafeteria if she planned to eat today. Now it was time to prepare for her students.
When they started to shuffle in for the first-period class, Rachelle began to check names off her attendance sheet. Two girls were first to take their seats. Rachelle had learned from their papers they were best friends. Will they stay close or drift apart after graduations? Rachelle wondered. Carol was heading for major university, while Macy hadn’t made any decision beyond getting her high school diploma. Next came the couple who were stuck to each other like glue and turned in very few assignments. Immediately they settled in the back row, while more students piled in. As soon as the bell rang, signaling the start of class, Rachelle went to the whiteboard to write: Where will you be in ten years?
Teaching twelfth grade English was a challenge. Even though it was a graduation requirement, she did her best to make the class interesting. To pass, all a student had to do was show up and he or she would earn a D, which was a passing grade, but Rachelle offered more to those who choose to participate. Since writing was one of her passions, she gave them a weekly short assignment to explore theirs and other lives, as well as the world around them.
Walking to stand in front of her students, she called out. “For those who did the assignment over winter break, pass your papers forward. For those who still want a grade, I’ll accept this assignment no later than Friday, minus half a grade.” In response, papers were passed forward. Taking the stacks, Rachelle set them on her desk. “Who would like to answer the question on the board.”
Immediately the class clown jumped up. “My fellow Americans,” he said doing his best to imitate past president Richard Nixon. It got a good laugh out of the class, and several people clapped.
“Do you plan to rule the nation ten years from now Steve?”
The young man took a bow. “Nope. But I do like making people laugh. I hope to be in showbiz doing standup comedy.”
This time a young woman raised her hand. “I’m going to enter nursing school after I get my associates degree,” Sally stated. “I’d be the fourth generation to enter the profession in my family. I’d like to be working in emergency medicine at a major hospital in ten years.”
Rachelle nodded, then pointed to another student. “For me, it’s the Peace Core. My folks did that and got to see some interesting places in the world. I plan to be stomping around in some third world country.” Others added in their choices as to where they hoped to end up. As for the couple in the back, they were too busy making love eyes at each other. Hopefully they were using protection, Rachelle prayed before calling on another student. Lindsay rarely raised her hand. “My mom always said, she didn’t care if we were a ditch digger or brain surgeon as long as we ended up happy and productive. I’m still trying to figure out what career I want to follow, but I plan to follow her advice.”
“I like that one,” Rachelle responded.
“I’m going to have a half dozen babies,” Nicky said, then blew Bryon a kiss.
Now the young man choked. “Six!”
Decided this was a teaching moment, Rachelle stepped in. “And who is going to support you and all those kids.”
Turning to face the teacher, Nicky gave her a blank stare. “Why Bryon will of course.”
“What if he can’t. What if he gets sick, or loses his job and can’t find work?”
“That’s not going to happen!” Nicky demanded. “Why are you raining on my parade?”
“She’s not.” This comment came from Hal. Very active in school affairs, he was also invested in his church. “Your saying life sometimes doesn’t turn out the way we planned. What about you? Where do you plan to be ten years from now?”
Thinking of her husband, Rachelle put into words her thoughts without getting too personal. “I can’t say. Life shifted for me three years ago when I lost my husband. His death has forced me to rethink my future.”
“Bummer man,” one of her students chimed in.
“Yes, it was. But I’ve learned life will go on with or without me. So I chose to live. In ten years. I plan to be retired, but for now I’m still trying to figure out what that will mean for me.” Glancing at the clock, she decided to change their next writing assignment. “For your next paper, I’d like you to find an adult that is at least ten years older than you. Ask them to share with you what they think the next ten years will hold for them.” As if on cue, the bell rang signaling the change of class. As the lovebirds walked by, Rachelle heard Bryon say to Nicky, “We’re not having six kids!” The girl’s angry retort was swallowed up by the crowd.
By lunchtime, Rachelle was ready to eat. Choosing a prefixed salad, she handed over money. In among the bills was the special one-dollar bill. As the cafeteria worker stuffed the bill in her drawer, another came over. “Need change,” her co-worker said, and the two made the exchange. Returning to her impatient students, the cafeteria worker sold the requested items. Macy bought a cup of yogurt. Shoving her change into her pocket, she didn’t see the writing on the bill. Setting at a table, she poked with little interest at the container of food. At the moment she had other things on her mind than what life would be in the future.
“Hey,” she heard and looked up to see a Carol dumping her stuff on the table. “How’s your mom. You didn’t say this morning if she had the flu or something else?”
“Something else. She’s pregnant,” Macy muttered. “And excited about it.”
“Pregnant!” Carol said in shock. “What will that make in your family?”
“When this baby’s born, I’ll have six sibs.” Taking a bit of her yogurt, Macy gave a snort of disgust about the future.