I have lots of thoughts that knock around in my head at 2AM and don't let me sleep. Most of them are stupid things I said and did in my younger years. Worrying about how my mouth may have offended others keeps me up at night often.
I went to elementary school at a Parochial school in Toledo. The tuition was more than my family could afford. My parents were not members of the parish and so the amount of tuition for us was higher than the average family. My mom worked at the school as a lunch aid to help with the costs until she was too sick to be able to do so. After that, I received a scholarship and financial aid to cover what it cost. If you go to Parochial elementary school in Toledo, the traditional next step is to choose one of the Parochial high schools. In 8th grade, all the girls go and visit the 2 all-girls schools and the two co-ed schools. I was smitten with St. Ursula Academy from the beginning. I wanted to go there so badly. I applied and took the entrance exam. I had it in my head that I was going there. My mom was the voice of reason. She knew we couldn't afford it. I can't remember what the tuition was in 1989. I looked online to see what the tuition is now and the official SUA website doesn't have it listed. So you know it has to be a lot. I found an independent website that listed the tuition in 2008 as $8800 a year. So in 1989 it was probably around $4000-5000. It was a scary amount of money for my family. I did well on the entrance exam and got some kind of scholarship but not enough to cover the whole amount. And the scholarship only lasted my freshman year. Every 8th grade applicant that is accepted is given an appointment to meet with the counselor to choose classes and pay the tuition. My appointment arrived in the mail with an * next to the tuition due amount and a note that said we would discuss it when we met with the counselor. My dad and I were hopeful that maybe I was getting more of a scholarship but my mom kept reminding us that we needed more than just "something" in order to be able to make it work. Me and Dad went to the meeting at St. Ursula and instead of meeting with a counselor, the principal met with us. She signed me up for all the classes I should take and then looked at me over her half glasses (no she was not Dumbledore) and said that my tuition had been paid for by someone else. The donor wished to remain anonymous. I could only communicate with him via letter. I cannot tell you how elated I was. Words cannot describe how I felt. Dad took me to the book store and bought me an SUA sweatshirt that I wore every moment of my life for the next year. I was an arrow! My life was complete.
I wrote letters to my anonymous benefactor telling him how I was doing and thanking him for his kindness and generosity. I continued to do this through my junior year. At the end of the that year, right before summer vacation, the principal came to me to tell me that the benefactor had decided not to continue my scholarship through my senior year. My heart fell into my toes. I cried right there in front of her. I knew we couldn't afford the tuition without the scholarship. My mom died during the summer between freshman and sophomore year and my dad was contemplating quitting his job and living off of his social security and disability. I had visions of me at Bowsher HS (no offense, Michelle) and I was just so sad. I was going to have to leave my friends and everything I had built at SUA. I was not a slouch of a student. I was freshman class president and had just been elected senior class president. I was involved in clubs of all kind from academic to service to fun. This was my life. I can just say that I was devastated.
The principal left me that day with the assurance that she was going to find a way to help me with this. A few days later she pulled me aside to tell me that the school would take care of my tuition. It was paid for and I didn't have to worry about it. I was grateful beyond words. I cried again and told her how much I appreciated what she was doing for me. I finished my senior year and graduated with high honors. I have continued to let that principal know over the years how much an SUA education has meant to me and has helped me in my life.
So what part of this story keeps me up at night? It's not who was the benefactor. I don't have to know that. The best kind of service and love is done in secret with no recognition in my opinion. The part that bothers me is what did I do to make the person not want to help me through my senior year? Did I say something offensive to him or his family? I totally could have because my mouth works way faster than my brain and often says the dumbest stuff imaginable. What did I do to upset this person to make him not want to help me? I'm not even sure that I really want to know because it would probably hurt my heart to know how I hurt someone else. But part of me wishes I knew. I have a feeling that this will be one of those experiences that will continue to nag at me at 2AM for the rest of my life.