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Bentlee Isom

Bentlee's Way

By Raphael Maurice

“When you’re here, the teachers take their time to get to know you.”

Bentlee Isom, now in her junior year at Meridian, knows a good thing when she sees it. Where once school (or high school specifically) might have given her pause, she’s taking what comes in stride and with appreciation. She plans to pursue a career in nursing, specifically in the NICU. She’s already taking nursing classes, and it all comes naturally to her. “I’ve always liked taking care of people and I like children.” But there are still things we have to prepare for, no matter how easily some things might come to us.

In the NICU, there are going to be some hard sights, losses, and hardships in general for families and babies. For Isom, it’s about preparing to prepare. She understands that the unknown has to have a space in our minds for us to wrestle with it. When asked about time preparing for NICU work, she notes, “I feel like it’s all a mental thing, really. Besides working and taking your clinicals, you also have to “When you’re here, the teachers take their time to get to know you.” really use it to mentally prepare for it. Because you don’t know what’s going to happen.” Isom is already mentally preparing for the hardships she herself will probably see. There’s courage in this, and a good deal of realism. And, it isn’t as if Isom hasn’t had to prepare before.

When she was younger, the world around her and its people seemed larger, scarier. Not now. “When I was a freshman, I was scared. I was scared to be here because I was a little kid. Everybody was so much bigger then. But now, it’s not so bad. You just come to school and get it done, see your friends, and go home.” But Bentlee Isom is doing more than just that. She’s making her way and seeing to it that she’ll be helping families and children in the near future. And that’s a gift, a calling.

But what makes this place so special to Isom? What is it about Meridian and the school that makes Isom (and many others) want to be here, perhaps even stay here? Bentlee is onto a good answer: “You know, normally at bigger schools, from what I’ve heard, the teachers don’t know you as well. But when you’re here, the teachers take their time to get to know you.” Rather than being a number in a lottery, Isom knows that she’s noticed and seen here, that she isn’t just another face. In turn, being seen is going to help her see others; at school, around town, and eventually in the NICU. She’s already preparing for what she might see, and not one of her patients will be just a number either. She’ll see to that. The school itself and the fact that many teachers drive great distances to be here are real occurrences that make a difference, and they’re not lost on Isom. “I think it just means a lot to me. These teachers are coming from far places. They don’t have to. We’re a small school.”

Small school or not, there is a grandness to this place. It means a lot to many people, students, teachers, and the community as a whole. To know that Bentlee Isom, wherever she winds up, is going to be a nurse helping those around her, is to know that a small part of Meridian is making the world at large better. While many of us are still confused as to our role or calling, Isom isn’t. And it isn’t that her world is cut and dry, far from it. To know at a young age that you want to help and that you’ll see hard things is courage, plain and simple. It doesn’t always get noticed, but it should. I am reminded of a song by M. Ward, and I should mention that, while she doesn’t play an instrument, Bentlee likes rock music: “We come and we go / weeping and a’ wailing / our heads in the hands of the nurse.” Hopefully, when we all go, it will be under the care of someone like Bentlee Isom. She’s prepared for us, however unprepared we might be.

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