I have never taught Fernando Zamora ’16, nor have I coached or advised him. Yet I had three encounters with him in the space of 24 hours last week that made me consider how much I value random paths-crossings in this boarding school life.
Saturday night, Fernando arrived for our Open House before the crush, and in the uncrowded kitchen, we chatted a little about the film he’d just screened for the campus (Rebecca), about Hitchcock and about Film Society (of which he is the student head); then he nodded his goodbye to leave for the TV room to tuck into Unbroken with several other kids and a big bowl of popcorn.
The next morning, I was booking down the A. S. Thacher trail on foot just above where it intersects with the Phelps. Suddenly, there was a horse and rider–and I’d clearly spooked them, which, frankly, spooked me. It was Fernando, who sat that dancing horse impressively, brought him (or maybe a mare?) back down to a calmish walk, and moved down the trail again. (A week hence, I’d watch the two of them on the gymkhana field working through a rough patch in their relationship, Mr. Schryver hollering instructions, Fernando drawing on grit and courage to get everything back in line.)
A few hours later, at Sunday evening’s formal dinner, I took an emptied platter back to the serving line for more of something, and there Fernando was, taking his turn at doling out dinner refills. I apologized again for having surprised him on the trail; he smiled and said, “Well, if it hadn’t been for you, it would have been a pretty boring ride.” Then we talked about Mrs. Meyer (Psychology) having recently told me something about human beings needing at least one good jolt of adrenaline every day. We laughed a little, and I went back to my table.
I loved everything about each of these moments–Fernando’s open-heartedness, his essential politeness and civility, his willingness to engage. Maybe I’ll see him at my English IV Honors seminar table next fall; maybe not. But if I don’t, I’ll still feel as if I’ve gotten a glimpse inside the lad–one I doubt I’d have if I worked at a day school.