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Why Wouldn't They?

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Heading into this school year I was a little bit worried about how my son Derek would handle things. He had never been to public school and for the most part, has been sheltered his entire life. His experiences up until this year have been wonderful and have helped shape him into the child that he is today.

His mom and I are quite proud of him. He was recently awarded "The Most Caring Award" in his class. To be quite honest, that meant more to us than anything else. Derek couldn't have had a better year. And for that we are forever grateful to the women who loved him like he was their own.

But as you can see above, this piece is not about his relationship with his teachers. That is for a later piece. No, this piece is about a connection, a friendship, a bond that formed between an unlikely pair. The photo above is of my son and one of his best friends, Mr. Johnson, or "Juggy" as he affectionately called. Mr. Johnson wears many hats throughout the day. He spends much of his time working as a mentor to students that may need a little extra help just making it through the day.

I am not quite sure how their friendship started. It just did. Somehow they found each other. They look forward to seeing each other every day. Derek often runs and jumps into his arms and Mr. Johnson always catches him. Derek knows that he always will.

Earlier this year, when my wife and I forgot to inform our parents that Derek's school was celebrating Grandparent's Day, Mr. Johnson offered to be my son's grandparent. He stopped what he was doing and went to Derek's classroom. Because he didn't want Derek to be sad. Because he knew that's what Derek would want. Because they are good friends.

Each and every day we do everything we can to try and build relationships with the students that we serve. And it's not easy. Whether we want to admit it or not there are factors that oftentimes can get in the way. Sometimes it is age. Sometimes it is race. Sometimes it is culture.

So knowing this, how is that these two unlikely souls found each other? A large middle-aged black man and a small four-year old white boy. What could they possibly have in common? Why did they bond from day 1?

Doesn't race matter?

Doesn't age matter?

Doesn't culture matter?

Yes! Yes! & Yes!

They all matter! But they shouldn't be roadblocks and they shouldn't be impediments.

I truly believe that both my son and Mr. Johnson are fully aware of their differences but they aren't about to let them get in their way. My wife and daughter and I all call Derek Little D and earlier this year Mr. Johnson asked my daughter if it'd be okay if he could do the same. That was an easy question for her to answer.

I spend my days trying to help students and staff build the type of relationship that my son and Mr. Johnson have. Sometimes I am successful and sometimes I am not. And for the longest time I could not, for the life of me, figure out why these two unlikely characters bonded and became so close, so quickly.

Well the other day I went to their school. I got to witness them spending time together for the very first time. And after a few seconds I knew the answer to my question.

Little D and Juggy enjoy being each others' company. It's wasn't anything that they said to one another and it wasn't anything that they did.

They just were. And that was enough. In fact, it was more than enough. It was everything.

That is what we must work for.

So the question still remains, "why is it that a small four year-old white boy and a large middle-aged black man get along so well?"

And to that I now say,


Why wouldn't they?







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Jon is currently the assistant principal in Dorchester County, Maryland. This is his seventh year serving as an assistant principal at the elementary level. Prior to becoming an administrator he served as a Math Coach and an elementary school teacher. During his ten years as a classroom teacher he taught first, second, fourth and fifth grades. During his sixth year teaching he earned Nationally Board Certification, which he held for ten years. For seven years he ran a Young Gentleman's Club that was aimed at helping young men reach their full potential.  

Jon received a B.A. from Furman University while majoring in Philosophy. He later went on to earn his B.S from Salisbury University while majoring in Elementary Education. Jon was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to student teach in New Zealand. He eventually received his M.A. degree from Salisbury University in Public School Administration.

Jon lives in Cambridge, Maryland with his amazing wife and two awesome children.

  • Guest
    Jon Wennstrom Sunday, 12 June 2016

    Nice piece Jon! I guess the main ingredient in any relationship is caring. Put two caring hearts together and there you have it. Glad Little D and Juggy were able to make that connection!


  • Jon Harper /  @Jonharper70bd
    Jon Harper / @Jonharper70bd Sunday, 12 June 2016

    Thanks Jon. They are truly two caring hearts that were destined to find each other.

  • Guest
    Karen Wood Sunday, 12 June 2016

    Love it, Jon. Thanks so much for sharing the amazing impact this relationship has had on your family. Beautiful!

  • Jon Harper /  @Jonharper70bd
    Jon Harper / @Jonharper70bd Monday, 13 June 2016

    Thank you Karen. It has been beautiful to watch.

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Guest Friday, 22 February 2019