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On a busy school morning, I would be seen dashing across the playground to the school building, if it were not for a hello that I had to make every morning.

A Guest Essay By Emma Maxwell, Nichols School Student

Five days a week, cars honk as if in symphony, and kids trudge with heavy backpacks to classrooms and lockers. In the midst of all this, I am dropped off on the corner near my school. My mother waves good-bye and I march off across the street.

As I wait for the endless early morning traffic to cease long enough for me to cross the street, I hear a voice above the chorus of students, “I got everybody! Good morning!”

The voice beckons kids to the crosswalk and guides them across in a safe manner. All of the parent drivers brake and relax in their leather-upholstered seats. Students who have never met in school walk across the street under the watchful eye of Debra a crossing guard for Washington School.  

Debra pulls up every morning in her car, and sits patiently until the first, lonesome student walks sleepy-eyed up to the corner. She is out of the car in a flash, so fast that the grumpy student, sometimes me, doesn’t even have time to rub the sand from her eyes. She smiles constantly and is the most reliable person I know. Nobody beats Debra. For kids who brave the biting wind or blistering heat to walk to school, they are never alone, because Debra waits to greet them. In her orange vest that shows her authority, she waits. On those days when I make the hike to school, I always wait in silence for my solitary morning to end, with the greeting of someone who endures the sun, the wind, and the rain more than anyone else, Debra.

Her smile is a nice break from the grim faces of teachers that we face all day. She is the one who brightens our day. She is the sole reason that some kids go out of their way to take the route down her street. They greet her and cross the street in what is definitely the safest spot.

Everybody respects Debra. The students in my classes who have disciplinary problems, or who like to engage in debates with teachers, are sweet as lambs with Debra. Debra makes it her job to tame the kids who don’t have parents who drive them to school in the family Lexus, the kids who carry the same backpacks all through high school; she takes them under her wing. She helps them zip up their jackets, or fix their shoelaces, or pull their hats down. She is a mother at school. She is the mother who is never angry with her children. She is the mother who longs to greet children while smiling every morning.

From Debra’s small gesture of kindness, I get the energy to smile all day. The energy to smile at teachers who don’t challenge me, or students who I don’t know comes from Debra. I smile and wave to everyone who I can make eye contact with during the seemingly endless school day. Debra taught me that one smile, one “Good morning,” can help people through the day. I discovered that by simply making it my job to smile and be the optimist in any group of people, I can spread joy, kindness, and relaxation.

Every smile that I pass on to anybody becomes a hundred, a thousand times greater each time it is passed on again. If everybody smiled at others, then we would have a much happier world.

My days with Debra taught me far more than how to cross a street; they taught me how to spread good will, one smile at a time.