I love when books change my life.
Any Small Goodness by Tony Johnston has done just that.
This sweet young adult novel is beautifully written filled with characters that inspire me to be a better person. Arturo, the main character, has moved from Mexico to L.A. with his family. He is a person that strives to do right despite circumstances. He is maneuvering through who and what he values and he is discovering that there is a lot to learn, both good and bad, from people.
His Abuelita (or Grandmother!) champions who he is. She encourages him to be who he is supposed to be and she has faith that he will choose right. The relationship between Arturo and his Abuelita is metaphorically captured in a small gift that Arturo gives her. It is a small, prickly cactus with one red blooming flower. When she receives this gift she exclaims: "Ay, Arturo, mi pequeno cactus!" And Arturo analyzes this by saying: "Like I'm prickly sometimes, but have a chance of flowers."
As I read this aloud to my students I got a bit choked up. I think this was because I realized that despite some of the challenges I am facing this year with 7th graders, the young people sitting in front of me have a bit of Arturo in them. They are all prickly with a chance of flowers. They are finding their way, figuring out who they are, and hopefully choosing right. I realized that when I look hard enough, even my most prickly students has a chance of flowers. I just have to look for the bloom.
Actually, the truth of the matter is that all of us are prickly with a chance of flowers and the miracle in the mundane is realizing this.