They hold their little hands in theirs as they make their way up the steps to the classroom in the morning.
They wipe tears….
Cheer supportively at assemblies…..
Join in for family reading…..
Theirs is the first face the little ones see when the door opens and they are finished for the day.
They’ve come from different countries and continents to start over, or make a life in Canada. The Philippines, Thailand, and Brazil are the places they call home.
They are the help, the nannies of the school.
Some of them live in beautiful suites in the lower level of the house of the family they are working for. Others have just a small room in the basement.
They don’t always know where they fit in – where they belong. They are not the little one’s parent. They know this well. But they feel like they are most days.
On the playground some of them are tentative and shy. Their heads are down and they avert your eyes. Their English isn’t good enough, they think. What do they have to offer to the conversation? They’re not like you, they think. They are only the help.
Others have the spark of life in their eyes. They seek connection, relationship, and understanding. They find their place and become part of the circle.
Whether tentative or shy or full of life, when you really see them come alive is when they find each other. It’s then that they can speak the same language to each other, in more ways than one. Here they can speak Tagalog and think of home. But it’s also where their context is understood. What they do, who they are, what they are missing, what they have, and who they left behind. They laugh here as though they are all in on the same joke. Or the same life. The life of the help.
They have gained the warm embrace of children, but they are children who aren't theirs. Some hold the hands of another's children and have had to leave their own behind to make this dream work. Does it hurt to feel the embrace of these children, or does it lessen the existing pain and longing just a little?
Do the parents know, I wonder, how gently they hold their children? How they send them off with a kiss and a wish for a good day? That they are part of the fabric of the community on the steps and on the playground. That they are known and engaged and missed when they're gone?
Not invisible. Not to me.
Not just the help.