A little insight into the inspiration of our song “Timothy”
‘Miss Kim’ Turner Taught Farmington Students About Caring
Kim Turner didn’t have a fancy high-level job. She worked in a middle school cafeteria. All she really had to do was make sure nothing bad happened during lunch.
Hugging the unhuggable, slipping kids candy, chatting with the lonely, counseling young relationships, diffusing impending disaster, remembering names, making every kid feel special — none of that was part of her official job description.
She was a cafeteria monitor. But “Miss Kim” went way above and beyond what was expected. She touched thousands of lives during her 14 years’ working in the Farmington school system.
Two Sundays ago, an estimated 3,000 people came through Farmington High School to grieve as a community for Turner, who died in a car accident on her way to work earlier this month. Some 3,000 ‘tweens, teens, college students and parents — all whose lives had been touched by this one woman with a small job and a gigantic heart.
With a packed gymnasium and a packed auditorium watching the memorial service on a big screen, emotions were on display. Kids openly wept for this cafeteria worker who quietly intervened when a fight in the boys’ bathroom was being cooked up, who consoled a girl whose best friend had just dumped her, who made sure nobody sat alone at lunchtime.
Turner’s humor, individuality and wild enthusiasm made for good copy in memorial speeches written by students and teachers, all of whom were able to inject a little levity into the otherwise melancholy dedications.
But it wasn’t Turner’s obsession with the color purple or her love of Chinese food that made an impact on these young people. It was the fact that she went out of her way to care for people.
Turner attended dances — both at the school and at the town’s community center — with no expectation of being compensated for her time. She just wanted to get to know the kids better and to make sure they were safe. She’d give administrators “the down-low” on a student in trouble or in need of special attention. Because she also had afternoon bus duty at the school, hers was the last friendly face many students saw before heading to a home that might not be as warm as the school cafeteria in the presence of Miss Kim.
Parents tend to fixate on getting their kids into the best college and steering them toward a successful career. It’s the nature of our society and what we value.
But what if we encouraged something more than stellar SAT scores and a high GPA from our kids? What if we spent more energy persuading them to be good people and to help others?
As I walked out of the memorial service with my eighth-grader, both of us dressed in purple in her honor, he announced, “I want to be like Miss Kim when I grow up.”
To have a child who grows up to be as deliberately caring and attentive as Miss Kim should be the greatest success for any parent. Turner has left a community of young people with an inspiration to do more, to be more.
These kids are now changed as a result of this tragic event. They’ve lost a friend, an ally, a confidant. They’ve lost their sunshine.
But with this slap in the face of reality, they’ve gained an appreciation for how amazing one’s life can be — first-class degree or not. And maybe we’ll all experience a shift in priorities.
At the end of your life, which number would you like to be higher: Your SAT score or the number of lives made better by your existence?
Teresa Pelham is a freelance writer from Farmington and a regular contributor to our parenting blog http://www.ctnow.com/mommyminute.