I met the coolest person today.
The setting: Teacher's cafeteria. Two young teachers sit alone at school while the rest of the staff goes out to lunch one last time together. (In our area, 45 minutes is not enough time for a relaxed restaurant dining experience! I don't care if that makes me antisocial.)
Enter: Two custodians. The one is our regular. He stops to sit down and chat, leaving the other (new guy who is training/helping out) to sit at the far end of the table eating alone.
Exit: Custodian #1 (without introducing anyone to Custodian #2, mind you)
The scene: Two young teachers sit alone at at the opposite end of the table from their new silent companion. Feeling awkward and trying to be friendly, one of them finally speaks up and asks questions (that would be me...surprise, surprise).
It ended up being the best conversation I've had in a long time. The guy had a tattoo sleeve on one arm, but as soon as he started talking, he didn't fit the "image" at all. He started to share about his life, his love of music, and his obvious affinity for working with children (he'll have one of his own in two months!). He was friendly and outgoing, describing his past work experience and how he came to be at our school in the past months of transition during his life. We smiled and laughed as he talked about the kids whispering about how he must be a "badass" and "scary dude" and how they shouldn't try to "mess with him." He looked at us helplessly as he expressed what he wished he could say to them, "No really, I'm a nice man! I just like ink." :) He was seriously adorable in his wish for acceptance.
I'm not sure what kind of strange fate puts a person like him (former engineer) in a place like ours, and still enables him to be passionate about aspects of the new work at hand (some of it obviously stems from the gratitude of having work at all with a pregnant wife at home). His attitude and outlook was so cool and refreshing and it made me really grateful that I have a big mouth and a penchant for taking awkward situations head on!
(and seriously, it's a lesson you'd think I would know by now...to not judge a book by it's cover. It's certainly something I work hard at teaching my students. But every once in a while it's nice to have a real life example to refer back to as to why the lesson has continued merit.)