Rarely do our lives go according to plan. It almost seems as if our stories are purposefully structured that way. Despite detours and all their corresponding strife, we often discover that the outcome we've wandered into is a treasure that we wouldn't trade for anything.
A Son's Biggest Fan
Brittney Mitchell, the fresh new face in the elementary school office, lives such a truth. A self-proclaimed “people person” who loves to be around kids, she jumped at the opportunity to be the elementary school secretary, after years in the bookkeeping office and working part-time at the Southeast Cancer Center in Cape Girardeau. For her, making the job shift was all about being closer to home so she could continue to be her three children’s “biggest fan.” There are baseball games to attend, and cheers for the making. She especially wants her oldest, Tyson, to always know “he's got somebody out there.”
“Every time he goes up to bat, he'll look up at me and smile. That’s something I always want,” she says fondly.
Meridian appeals to her because it’s a welcome extension of family. “Most of the people that work here are from this area, so you know them personally outside of school,” Brittney says. She explains the teachers are committed to building connections with parents, which includes letting parents in on what’s happening in the classroom. For most area students who spend their entire K-12 life at Meridian, it’s not uncommon for a high school senior to visit their pre-K teacher to hug them, much like a close family member.
Brittney explains the student-teacher dynamic at the school as a series of respectful challenges and well-needed inspiration: “Our teachers now are pushing our kids to be more and do more and some of these kids aren’t getting it at home…Here, they’re treated like human beings, they’re treated like family. You get the pat on the back, you get the ‘I’m proud of you,’ you get the sense of family here, and that’s what a lot of people need that they're not getting.”
She understands this need all too well. At eighteen, shortly after starting at Shawnee College, she became pregnant. As a single expectant mother, the imbalance between work, school, and childcare was untenable. “I had to move back in with my parents,” she says, “That in itself was a challenge.” However, driven to do better for her son, she threw herself into her work.
After marrying her husband, Tanner, in 2014 and giving birth to another son, she grew bored of staying at home. Since the boys were starting school, she applied at the Southeast Cancer Center. “My grandma passed away from cancer right after my son was born, so I felt like that was a really good place for me…I loved every minute of being there,” Brittney says. While working at the cancer center, Tyson’s father, Jacob, was diagnosed with cancer. He passed away in March of this year. She credits working at the cancer center with helping her understand what Jacob endured.
Even with all the hardships, Brittney says she likes the path she’s on now. If she had to advise her younger self, she would be reluctant, as she wouldn’t want to disturb or change the way her life is today. However, she concedes that she’d probably tell herself to slow down and have a little bit more fun. Her advice doesn’t apply only to her younger self, though. She believes that simply listening to all our young people is incredibly important.
“Sometimes just checking in or giving a smile in the hallway, just taking a moment to show somebody that they’re important and that they are somebody,” Brittney explains, “I feel like that is a really big thing that more people need to do.” We agree. Simple gestures can go a long way in validating those around us, making them feel worth it when they can’t muster a sense of value on their own. This offering applies most to those who are terrified that they've veered off course when, in fact, they’re on their way to something entirely new: The crack of a bat, a young batter turning to look at his mother in the stands as he starts toward first base, and her right there, proudly waving back.