Who knows what ripples may go out into the world when you assign a book for an Ashwood class to read? Ms Purdom assigned a powerful book for grades 6-7 to read this year called “A Long Walk to Water” by Linda Sue Park. Ever curious about what our children get to learn at Ashwood, I peak at school work, poke my head into the classroom, go to performances, and often I read or listen to the books that are assigned, as I did in this case. Shortly after finishing the book, I traveled to Florida for work. Below is an abbreviated account of the ripple that moved out of the classroom into my life that first day in Florida.
When I landed in Jacksonville, Florida, I looked for a taxi and took the first one in the line, a huge Yukon black SUV with a kind driver. The driver was a black man with an accent I didn’t recognize. He said he lived 20 years in Texas, and that it really feels like home to him. He misses it.  I asked what he liked about Texas—had he connected with the natural areas, the music or food? “No, no.” Perhaps friends and family and community are there? “Yes, yes, that was it, it felt like home.”   We got to talking about the weather and the seasons, how hot it was here, and that it was also in Texas, but it was dry there. Then I said, “I used to travel to Costa Rica and there they call it winter when it rains and summer when it doesn’t.”  “Yes! That’s like in my country where I’m from in Africa!” he said. I hadn’t wanted to ask where he was from based on his accent, but was very happy he’d brought it up. “Oh, where is that?” “South Sudan.” South Sudan. My mind paused, then leapt before I could think of what I was saying. “Oh. My son and I just read the book ‘A Long Walk to Water.’ Have you read it?” “No, no. I haven’t read it. I didn’t have a long walk to water…there was water along the way where I walked.” I don’t quite recall exactly how he said it, how he started the story. Yet, he did. “I was in a group of many boys who walked together. I had to leave my home when I was 17. We walked as a group, out of Sudan, we walked to Ethiopia, and then they sent us back to Sudan. They put us in refugee camps, for months. In one of them, they made us into boy soldiers and taught us how to fight.’
That was the start to an eye-opening, emotional conversation for the next 45 minutes during which he shared heart-wrenching memories. Leonard was one of the infamous “Lost Boys of Sudan”, as they came to be called when global attention focused on their plight. Leonard was selected from a refugee camp in Kenya to to go Texas where he started a new life, and tears still well up in his eyes when he talks about when he had to flee with other boys when his village was attacked. Many of these boys were also relocated to Portland, Maine and other cities in the U.S.  
Some ripples, as in a still pond, move out into the world, touch a shore, and travel right back home. Thank you, Ms Purdom, for dropping pebbles into our children’s still ponds.
— Margo Burnham