. . . a group of older kids were using our loft as a superhero hideout. It was a noisy, exciting game involving ropes. It attracted a steady stream of younger children to check out the action. Owain took up a position at the top of the first flight of stairs. As newcomers arrived, he would block their way and ask, “Are you a good guy or a bad guy?” Most answered, “Good guy,” and were ushered into the designated part of the loft. The few who answered, “Bad guy,” were shown to another part of the loft.
My initial impulse was to put an end to this game that involved blocking the stairs, but after a moment’s reflection I realized Owain was following the You Can’t Say You Can’t Play rule to the letter, including the corollary. An established game was in progress. Newcomers were not being excluded. On the contrary they were being offered a choice of appropriate roles in the game.
I stood watching as everyone who approached was included. As the loft filled up with good guys and bad guys, everyone looked satisfied. A few minutes later an adult stepped in and broke up the game, but I still recall it as a shining moment, one I hope is recreated throughout the children’s lives.
This anecdote is Owain in a nutshell. He's a guy with ideas around which to organize others. He was a preschooler confident in his super powers who has grown into a 4th grader whose intellectual curiosity and ability to share his passions draws others to him. The fact that he could understand the complexities of a classroom rule like this, internalize it, and put it into practice with both authority and empathy remains one of the most amazing things I've ever seen in our classroom. And while he always strived to be a force for good within our rules, he had the confidence to speak out when he saw the rules applied unfairly. Everything he did, he did boldly, powerfully, and with the courage of his convictions.
I was lucky enough to catch glimpses of him in action even after he graduated from Woodland Park by virtue of his visits to the classroom with his younger brother, and I've managed to stay in touch with his family through the wonders of social networking. He is in training for the 50-mile Livestrong bicycle ride fundraiser to fight cancer. I can say that today Owain continues to be that same bold, powerful, intelligent, and courageous boy he was as a preschooler. I can't wait to know him as a man and be witness to the good he'll do in the world.
Yesterday, we learned that he's been diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytice Leukemia. I haven't been able to completely stop crying, but they aren't just tears of sorrow. They are also tears of pride for the fight he is going to fight. I've been imagining him in the "real" air force flight suit he used to wear to class, and the capes, and the Transformer costume. And, of course, I'm thinking of his incredible family and the power of their love for one another. "Owain's Army" is a mighty fighting force, and make no mistake, he is our leader.
I'm not sure where the lines of privacy are on this right now so I'll stop short of broadcasting direct contact information, links, etc., but if you want me to pass on any words of encouragement, leave them in the comments. If you know Owain's family and have lost touch, please email me and I'll get you hooked up.
If you want to do something more, Owain's father Alex writes on their CaringBridge page, ". . . please consider becoming a blood donor. Owain will almost certainly have a transfusion tomorrow. This is possible because healthy people donate blood. This saves lives. The marrow donor registry thing is also very cool. I didn't know about it, but will sign up now that I do."
And this is Owain's message from yesterday:
Owain here. My back is hurting, but other than that I am fine. The doctors did something I called sleepy test again today. It is where they put a milky fluid through your IV, which makes you fall asleep. Then they stick a couple of needles in ya. That's what happened to me today. Today was for chemotherap
y, but the first time was to test for leukemia. More later, Owain.