A few years ago a little boy in my classroom brought something unusual to school for show-and-tell time. ``What's in the box?'' the children asked Arthur that morning.
``You'll see,'' Arthur replied with a big grin. Then he set the box under his desk and refused to reveal its contents until our weekly sharing time.
As the minutes passed, the children's excitement seemed to gather momentum and multiply. You see, since school had begun, Arthur seldom brought anything from home to share. Each week he would tell us of his imaginary dog's new adventure, or he'd show crayons from his desk, or he'd even share his socks, as a last-minute idea. His parents had been out of work for some time, and they kept the family in clothes, food, and shelter through careful budgeting of funds.
As his teacher, there were many times when I rushed to Arthur's defense and tried to spare him the humiliation that was brought on by other students' remarks. And each Friday, while other children showed shiny new toys or shared accounts of their recent vacations, Arthur sat by quietly watching and listening about a world that I thought he might always be deprived of experiencing.
When our sharing time finally arrived, the children begged to have Arthur go first. He nodded excitedly and brought his box to the front of the room.
``My mom and I covered the outside of this box with scraps of her leftover material,'' Arthur began.
He looked so confident and eager to tell his story to the class. And standing there watching him that day, I felt a quiet tugging at my heart that just wouldn't quit.
``We found these things on our Family Night walk,'' he said as he took off the cover of his box.
``A Family Night?'' I asked, hoping it would prompt him to explain further.
``Sure,'' Arthur said. ``You know, a Family Night. That's the one night when the whole family spends time together and does something as a family. Here's the stuff we collected,'' he continued proudly.
Out of his mysterious box Arthur took ``gold'' rocks, leaves, pine cones, and a partial deer skull, which he explained made a wonderful meal for the field mice in winter.
``Oh, neat!'' the children whispered. ``Pass them around!'' I couldn't remember the last time I saw a group of children so fascinated over a show-and-tell item.
Arthur didn't bring in a flashy new toy and he didn't tell a terrific tale, yet his box and its contents were a smashing hit with his fellow students.
And the teacher? She learned one of the most priceless lessons of all that day. There's nothing that can ever replace loving parents who -- even though they don't or can't spend a lot of money on entertaining toys -- make a point of spending valuable time with their children.
Throughout the year Arthur brought in other things from his Family Night participation. Once he shared a collective story and picture that the family had put together, and another time he brought in crafts they had made. As the year passed, he gained a new confidence in himself as well as respect from his classmates.
The following year, I happened to see Arthur's mother in the store, and I asked her if they still had their Family Night.
``Yes, we do,'' she said. ``We'll probably be doing that until the kids are grown!''
As she walked away, I realized once again that sincere, loving parents are everywhere -- and whether rich or poor, they have one common goal of giving their own children the very best that is theirs to offer.