I knew a woman who always found an excuse to love.

I met her working at the most difficult job of my life – as a helper in an after-school daycare center. I was completely unprepared for the work; I had no training and my temperament seemed to be particularly unsuited to the position.

I reminded myself that I was hired to watch the children, play with them and lead arts and crafts – not fix all of their problems, of which there were many. And my only help was Mrs. Tucker, a 73-year-old retired social worker who worked with me. All that stood between the kids and disaster was me and a 73-year-old woman. And I wasn’t that sturdy a defense. But I soon learned that Mrs. Tucker was a master with these children.

“Some children just need more love,” she always said. A case in point  was Timmy. Timmy received special help at school because of his emotional problems. He was developmentally delayed. He often fought  with other children and was a compulsive hair-puller. I could never get close to Timmy – he did not trust anyone. Anyone, that is, except Mrs. Tucker. He responded her. He genuinely loved her because, I came to believe, she loved him.

One day a fight broke out between Timmy and one of the other children. After separating them, Mrs. Tucker directed Timmy to sit in a chair. He screamed, “I HATE YOU, Mrs. Tucker! You’re a mean, old lady! I hate you!”

“I know you hate me right now, Timmy,” she said firmly, “but I’m sure not going to let you pull the other children’s hair.”

After a while Timmy had calmed down and Mrs. Tucker called him over. His cheeks were still dirty and bore dried tear streaks. I could not hear their conversation, but I saw Timmy put his arms around her neck. When I walked by I heard him say, “I’m sorry I called you a mean old lady, Mrs. Tucker.” I knew he meant it.

A little later Mrs. Tucker said to me, “Timmy just needs more love than other children.”

On another occasion I heard Timmy’s mother say, “You work magic with him, Mrs. Tucker. He doesn’t respond to anybody like he does to you.”

Maybe so, but sometimes “magic” is just another word for “love.”

— Steve Goodier

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