The swishing sounds of a full-length cape signal that Addie Mix has arrived. As usual, it’s half an hour before the school’s starting time. The coffee drinking staff already gathered in the faculty lounge to wonder which elegant outfit that the fourth grade teacher predictably wears under the cape. Soon enough the faculty will assemble in the hall for bus duty and there will be time to check out the latest fashion for youthful, well-preserved fifty-four year olds.
Circling Addie’s wrist is a one-inch wide gold band of solid metal that she never removes. Engraved on top of the bracelet are the words, “Beloved Son, Jim Mix.” Written on the curved ends of the bracelet that hover over the arteries and veins beating life into the teacher are two dates. On the left is Jim’s birth date, on the right reads the date of his death, a span of eighteen short years. Parents of murder victims across the nation wear similar bracelets as a protest against the violence in a nation that neglects its young at-risk teens.
Grief lines are not etched into Addie’s clear face. Fighting the temptation to give in to despair and sorrow constitutes a nightly battle which she increasingly wins. In the blackest of evenings, Addie leans heavily on a faith in God, born of happy times, tested in the toughest circumstances. The focal point that brings the mother to renewed strength is a promise from her well-worn Bible. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.”
Dawn signals a time for Addie to work on several levels. As a fourth grade teacher, Addie tries to intervene with her at-risk students. The young man who stalked and stabbed Jim on a college campus bore the reputation of a bully. Records indicate that no one had intervened in his life. During the assailant’s trial, Addie determined to reach out to the potentially violent teens in her area. That decision changed her life.
Together with her friend, Gloria Randolph, Addie formed Reclaim A Youth, RAY. In their work with RAY, the women lead support meetings for parents of murder victims, conduct summer programs to reach at-risk students, and prepare sessions to inform college coeds about university life. Public speaking engagements fill their weekends. This year, three scholarships for at-risk graduating high school students were presented. Addie hopes that RAY will turn young, frustrated, impulsive teenagers from acts of violence. She drives home from her speaking opportunities under the cover of stars with a prayer that exhaustion will provide needed sleep for just one night.
Brisk, bustling steps in the hall, mingled with rhythmic cape swishes, pass the teacher’s lounge. To the faculty, the sound of Addie Mix brings to mind a role model of determination to overcome the tragedy of life through the triumph of the spirit.
I wrote this journal piece before Addie and I retired from teaching. She represents the finest inspiration among teachers. Her work with RAY over the years has increased as the number of young people involved has exploded. Addie would enjoy hearing from you. She can be reached at email@example.com.