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A meaningful moment happened at lunch recently. They often do in elementary school cafeterias.

We elementary school teachers eat lunch with our students. As we sit and eat our meat and three vegetables with them, we become listeners instead of talkers, we become students of our students’ lives.

Today, I was sitting across the table from Mauro. He’s a wonderful kid from Guatemala.

Ah, I wish you could know him. He makes my world better by being in my classroom.

“Mauro,” I’ll say, “it’s too bad you don’t have a twin brother. Then we’d have ‘two Mauros.’”

If you could see the twinkle in his earthy brown eyes and hear the joy in his 9-year-old giggle, you’d know what I mean. He’s a gift.

I stopped by his table the other day while he was writing a story. I sat down beside him.

“Mauro,” I said, “I just want you to know how glad I am that you’re in my classroom. You’re so smart and you work so hard and you’re so kind. I think you’re terrific.”

You would’ve thought I’d given him the world. Maybe I did. He smiled for the rest of the day.

Later that day, he asked, “Mr. Barton, do you know the story of Mary and Joseph?”

“Yep,” I answered. “I’ve known that story since I was a little boy.”

“Well,” he continued, “do you remember how they went from place to place trying to find somewhere to stay and everyone kept turning them away? And then finally someone gave them a place … even though it was outside.”

“I remember,” I said.

“My family celebrates that moment when someone gave them a place to stay. That’s what Christmas means to us.”

I have known that story since I was a little boy. But I’ve never thought of it in that way.

A modern-day holy family is a family from Guatemala looking for a place to stay. Wow.

Thank you, Mauro. I’m glad your somewhere is here.

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