41. Veronica

My boss and I had driven out to Long Island Monday for a couple of client meetings, and I had her drop me in the middle of Times Square after we beat the traffic back into the city. After missing the tutoring session the previous week due to my mysterious ailment, I knew I should show up on time to prove that I was still committed to the cause.

There was no Millie watching the door for me when I got to the study lounge, and the coordinator explained that she would be in Israel with her church group for the next two weeks in Israel. By now accustomed to my Jewish friends coming and going from the Holy Land, it took me a nanosecond to recall that church groups, too, place great stock in venturing over to Jerusalem – they just won’t likely be searching for spiritual encounters in the nightclubs of Tel Aviv.

Absent a partner, I was paired with Veronica, a youngish mother of three determined to get her nursing degree. She had high marks on all of the tests she needed to advance in her coursework, with the exception of algebra, and she was juggling a full work schedule and family demands with night classes and tutoring. After the introductions, she passed me a sheaf of papers filled with multiplication problems. My own algebra was beyond rusty, so I didn’t question the more basic subject matter.

As we began working our way through the problems, Veronica explained that she has her own approach to reaching the answer. I had done the same thing throughout school with considerable success, so I smiled and agreed that if it clicks, it clicks.

But for Veronica, it didn’t seem to be clicking. I could see her getting frustrated, and she explained with some embarrassment that her sons were good at math, but she just couldn’t get a handle on it. Her self-consciousness was clouding her ability to process the information.

The cheerleader in me clawed its way to the surface, and I praised her efforts with no small amount of enthusiasm. Then I encouraged her to go home and study multiplication flash cards with her daughter.

Veronica had impressed me with her dedication, and I didn’t doubt that she would go home and study her times tables. For next week, I promised to brush up on my algebra skills so we could tackle more advanced problems and do her dedication justice.

This project regularly reinforces that I’m not as smart as I had previously thought.

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