This (school) year has already grown and stretched me beyond what I thought reasonable. Having nothing to do with my own children or our adoption transition, going back to work – and working with children, no less – has had its own plethora of challenges that I wasn’t always prepared for. I love kids, I love my approximately 350 K-5 students and pride myself in the fact that I know them all by name (with the exception of maybe two that I get wrong on a 50/50 basis). I greet the by name as I pass by, make a point to recognize them at Fred Meyer on my off-days and wave across restaurant booths, and say hello in the parking lot. The relationships are what I love most about my job – its the classroom management that is the beast that kills my soul! (okay, so that’s a bit over-exaggerated, but seriously – I love organizing my shelves, organizing projects and setting out supplies, and doing life with these kids all year long. It’s just the discipline part of it that kills me! Then I go home after school and am so exhausted of “managing” kids, that my own children get the bare bones of my patience…not quite the ideal especially for a newly transitioning family! 😉
At any rate – back to the relationships. I love the random conversations I have with my students, it’s definitely the part that feeds my soul (see, prior comment was an over exaggeration, I still have a soul to feed). I find out about who loves unicorns and who plays soccer and whose sister broke their arm over the weekend. I hear about grandmas coming to visit (and which ones will receive the day’s coveted art project), grandpas going to see Jesus, and whose dog died…when they were in their mommy’s tummy. I hear it all. Apparently I have more of an art therapy room…
I don’t mind that part – and it is those stories that rock my weeks, those words that I hear and in turn speak, that propel the rest of the class time, or the discussions to follow.
Last week I had a very heartfelt conversation at the back table in one of my younger grade classes. It moved me quickly to tears, and I thought – this is why I’m here – as frustrating as some days are, as much as I wake up some mornings and think there’s 73 other places I’d rather be right now – this is why I’m here. I had started my class, done my “intro” to the project and was starting them on a coloring assignment. I noticed that one of my students was struggling with something – and it was affecting his ability to interact with other kids and he was obviously lost in his own heart struggle. I quietly came alongside him, and said “Hey (X), it seems like you’re having a rough morning, buddy.” He nodded. “What’s going on?” He continued slowly drawing his picture, and I could see tears welling up in his brown eyes as he struggled to keep his emotions contained. he slowly drew fingers on an arm. “I’m drawing me on here.” “I see that, (X), it looks great!”…Long pause, shuddering sigh. He hovered his pen off the page and lifted his eyes up to mine. His lashes held tears that threatened to spill over as he softly said, “Mrs. McGreevey, I just wish I didn’t have brown skin.”
Be still my heart.
I dropped to my knees instantly and held onto his gaze as my eyes came down to his eye level. “Why do you wish that, (X)?” “Because, Mrs. McGreevey, I wish I didn’t have brown skin so I could be NORMAL.”
“Oh, (X), you are normal just the way you are, but even more importantly, you are SPECIAL because God made you the way you are. Look at XYZ in your class – they all have brown skin like you! And they are pretty cool kids just like you. Do you know M in 2nd grade? He has brown skin too and he’s a great friend. Do you know the big boys in high school? They have brown skin just like you and are basketball players and they are awesome! You know what, (X), you are normal – but even more importantly, you are amazing because GOD MADE YOU. He made you with brown skin – because you were special to Him – and our God does NOT make mistakes. He made you and you are amazing!” And in that moment he took in a deep breath, picked up his pen, and with his eyes now shining he looked at me with a sloppy smile and said, “Well, when you put it that way…!” and went on happily coloring.
That moment seared my heart – because I know that someday I’ll have the same conversations with my son – and it caught my tears in my throat for that child’s mama, because she’s going through it now even if she doesn’t realize it. To me, it’s truly an amazing thing that God had the creativity to create so many different colors and peoples – but in that same fist is also clenched the pain of our fallen world twisting that creativity and beauty into something it was never intended to be. Our differences were crafted to glorify the Creator, and now even our youngest children are wading through painful assessments of their fragmented hearts simply because they look different than someone else.
I pray that when the time comes for that conversation that my son can hear those words and respond with such grace and innocent faith. That he will, as well, recognize that the simple truth that God created him and that he is not a mistake, that he has a purpose bigger than what he can see in front of him. We don’t all look the same – but that’s the beauty of the created – we are each unique, created out of an intense, reckless, passionate love – chased down by a Father who longs for us to listen to His truth and allow that to be our anthem.
The words we speak are important – they matter – whether to each other, to our children, or to someone else’s children. Don’t be afraid to speak truth into someone else when it needs to be heard. Feel a moment? Take it – run with it – risk with it – you never know when the words you have to say may just be the awakening their heart needs to shake their soul.