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By Corrina S. Hyde


I have worked with young children most of my adult life. Not having children of my own, I have found an outlet to "mother" and "nurture."

I work with an Indian Program in Southeast Oklahoma designed to meet the needs of children with "disabilities." Back in November 1995, a few years ago, something happened that changed my life.

We were informed that our school was going to be admitting a "special needs child."

That afternoon before the child's mother came in to enroll her, we curiously looked over her application. I gasped as I read that at three years old she was a double amputee, from spinal meningitis. She was also reportedly missing several of her fingers.

When her mother came in to do the paperwork requested to enroll her, we cautiously asked her where "Kassidy" was. She informed us that she was in the car -- they had not brought her "legs," so she had remained in the car with a friend.

Here was a single mother with the weight of the world on her shoulders. While Kassidy was very excited about coming to school, her mother on the other hand was apprehensive. She shared stories of Kassidy's experiences with groups of children at day care centers and how she was shunned and how the other children were not comfortable with her, nor would they play with her.

We encouraged her to bring Kassidy in and show her around her new school.

I was not prepared for this beautiful, smiling child who clung to her mother. Her knees wrapped tightly around to her waist. Her mother set her on the floor and she took off to explore, running on her knees. That week's curriculum was Dinosaurs, and her face lit up, as she went from classroom to classroom, telling all she knew on the subject.

When they left, I called the director of the program, and explain that "I have to have this child!" Even though my classroom was full, I wanted her in it.

The next day, during learning time, I excitedly told all the boys and girls about Kassidy. I was so excited, that they became excited too. She began the next day and they loved and accepted her, because I did. Tottering on her prosthesis, she let the children touch her special legs.

A few weeks later, during an art project, she watched as we took each of the children's shoes off. She watched as we traced around their feet on a piece of paper, and watched as they squirmed and giggled when the pencil went around their toes.

When it was her turn, she insisted that we pull her shoes off too. That was not an easy task, but I did it. I stood her on the paper and started to trace around her perfect little plastic feet. When I started around the toes, she started to giggle wildly. I have never heard anything more beautiful, and more heart breaking at the same time. It was all I could do to continue, and when I was through, I excused myself, left my aide in charge, and left the room in tears.

You see, the art project involved drawing a flower. We traced their hands and fingers around the head of the flower to create the petals. The children's feet became the leaves of the stem. Because Kassidy only had a couple of fingers, her flower lacked all its petals.

But she didn't mind. As a matter of fact, no child was more proud than Kassidy -- her little flower with the missing petals! Her art work was beautiful. The other children not only accepted her, but smothered her in love.

Kassidy taught me more that year and the next than I ever taught her.

She taught me about adversity and how laughter could make even the most difficult conditions bearable.