I thought I would share this reflection I wrote on the way home from our final day of Play On! at MS 22.
Sometimes I am struck by the beauty in the world. I see it in human connections, or when people are kind, when they face their fear, or when someone is strong enough to be honest about their life experiences. Today we finished a cycle at MS 22 and I heard a kid say to another: “Thanks for working with me on that. It was fun.” It was so simple and struck me as truly beautiful.

There was one girl who seems to carry a lot of anger and was difficult to manage in the classroom. At one point she was standing face to face with her teacher yelling at him to shut up and she refused to leave the classroom. But how beautiful was the smile she gave me when I pulled her aside the other day and told her how smart and clever her ideas were and that she was a leader — that I was excited to see all that she could become if she could learn to process her anger. She partly looked at me like I was an alien but she also grinned from ear to ear and it was breathtaking.

Another student wrote a hilarious play – yes it was about a guy with a mental illness that made him think his butt was on fire, but hilarious nonetheless! When his peers performed his play, the pride and joy in his eyes was one of the most beautiful things I saw today.
Jeremy was a student that refused to participate and was constantly interrupting our first few sessions but one day after I asked him to control himself yet again, he ripped off his name tag and threw it and his notebook to the ground. So on my way out that day, I was so happy to run into him and let him know I saw his reaction to my scolding and that I was really sorry I hurt his feelings, that I hoped he knew how much I cared about him and that I hoped he would try participating again next time. Once Again, I received a look like I had two heads BUT he started to participate, co-wrote a nice play and ended up being a rock star today, acting in about 3 plays! We voted him Most Improved Player, a title which he was proud to own. It makes all of the struggle worth it.

I guess we sometimes have a hard time expressing what mercy, beauty and truth really means to us, but today I knew that if all Jaradoa ever did was see the beauty in students who rarely recognize their own beauty…it would be enough!

We couldn’t do any of this at MS 22 without all the donations we received in December. Thank you to all those who participate in Jaradoa – donors, members, volunteers, allies! This work matters. Thank You!

April Nickell

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