Giftus Dorkus

pencilIt’s been a busy week and my desk reflects this. It looks as though a stationary grenade went off. There are papers, paper clips, scissors hiding in a book. There are enough pens and whiteboard markers to color a full-grown adult in a variety of colors. My colleagues are in the same boat. It is late in the semester and we are tired.

The light sounds of someone knocking on the metal door jamb finally pull us from our work.

The student is small, nondescript, the Biblical definition of someone who will eventually inherit the Earth. She is here for me and I wipe apple juice off my fingers and pull up a chair. She comes to my office hours once in a while for help with her writing. She is as nervous as a little bird.

She may be meek and her demeanor apologetic, but she is neither dumb nor complacent. She stands out because she actually takes advice, uses it, improves her work. When she comes in for more help, it’s because she has hit another hurdle, not looking for an easier way to tackle an old problem. In any event, I give her about thirty minutes every couple of weeks and don’t think about her again until she surprises us all with her quiet metal-knocking.

Today, she hesitates as she leaves and finally musters up the guts to hand me a plastic bag. She thanks me for my help and makes for the door. I open the bag to find a mechanical pencil and a plastic quiver of refills. Koh-i-Noor Hardtmuth. I am stunned. I thank her and she scoots out.

I have been given gifts before, neat ones too. I’ve gotten magnets, Matryoshka dolls, Swiss chocolate, homemade slivovice, inscribed books, and stinky cheese. And I am blown away every time. Every single time.  In addition to my genuine gratitude, these gifts have also appealed to different parts of me: stomach, liver, fridge, bookshelf, doll perch, anosmia. They all show that the students know me better than I thought.

This gift appeals to my dorkiness. Big time. My officemates gripe in jealousy as I pull it from its plastic sheath like Excalibur. We write and jot notes all day every day and that results in extreme dorkiness. Pens, pencils, a good eraser arouse us more than they should. I’ll brag about a good notepad for a month. A free flashdisk can send me into a fit.

I proudly display the pencil in my shirt pocket, not even minding the wispy stains that it leaves above the pocket. I examine the refills, ceremoniously put it into my pencil-case. This is a big thing for a dork. My officemates bow their heads in respect as I toss out an old marker to make room.

Dorkiness aside, this little gesture from someone I don’t think about very often puts me in a good mood for the rest of the week. Anyway, there’s probably a lesson in that somewhere.

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