I had a little boy in class one year that ALL the teachers has warned me about. He was a trouble-maker, bad behavior issues, poor socialization skills, and came from a horrible home. All the knowledge needed for a poor teacher to make his life and classroom experience miserable. All the teachers previously were MORE than happy to ship him off to the next class, very pleased to be RID of Fred. As soon as he entered the class, I saw immediately what they were talking about. Fred made it his goal to make everyone around him unhappy and for a solid WEEK I tried all my best teaching skills on him, to no avail.
Then I looked passed all the baggage of labels placed on Fred and saw him as a CHILD. A child of ONLY 3! He never smiled. He NEVER laughed. He did not do what a normal 3 year old did. And there HAD to be a reason. And there was. He was unloved. He was unloved by all the teachers previous and unloved at home. He had no idea what it was to be precious in someone’s eyes. He was unlovely because he was different, and he, in his young years, had no idea how to cope with that knowledge.
So that began my mission: I was to make Fred smile. Just smile! That’s IT! So everyday, I would go out of my way to try to make Fred smile, whether it was a special toy brought to school for him, having him be my helper, have him sit on my lap for story time, sitting next to him at lunch time or nap time. Just pat him on his back or the top of his little head as I walked by. I started looking at him as more than just a teacher, but as a parent. How would I talk to my children? How would I show my children I loved them? Can a child who feels unlovely and unlovable, be shown love? Could I do it?
Several days went by of still no smile, and my heart broke for this little boy. I sat next to him at the table and turned our chairs so we were face to face, eye to eye and told him what my mission way. I told him that I found him fascinating, fun, and I loved him, but my heart was sad because he wouldn’t smile. No response. Nothing. Not a word, just big brown eyes staring at me, waiting. After no response at all, I did something totally unconventional and decidedly gross and disgusting. Looking in those big brown eyes, I told Fred he looked like he should taste like chocolate and I licked his forehead. Yes, I DID it! One big tongue lick to the forehead. Yes, yes, gross and not appropriate for a teacher to do and went totally against my germ-phobia, but it was necessary.
But, it worked. After the look of shock, he not only smiled and showed ALL of his teeth, but he laughed! He laughed long and hard and LOUD! And that one dumb lick to the forehead broke that ice. That was the beginning of a Fred that smiled daily, laughed all the time, and discovered that he WAS lovely and lovable.
Fred was by far my most favorite student ever. To this day, I miss him. We had a bond as student/teacher that was unbreakable. Every morning he would run to my class and hug me and every night he would wave goodbye to me, even after he was out of my classroom. I wanted him to KNOW he was loved and he was special to someone and it didn’t matter where he came from, what his socio-economic background was, or that his skin was dark chocolate and mine was vanilla, HE was special. And he was a different person after that. He was a different student, he had changed because someone loved him.
I have been lucky all my life to know I had parents that loved me. Even when I was unlovely and unlovable (those horrid teen years), my parents loved me. And I am lucky to have friends that love me. Even when I’m crabby and moody and my favorite phrase is “suck it”, they love me. Those type of friends are few and far between and not easy to come by.
But, I have a Savior that loves me above and beyond that. He takes my faults and my grouchiness and He knows my innermost UGLY and He DECIDEDLY loves me anyway. And He loved me FIRST. I find that fascinating. How many times in our human-ness have we loved someone FIRST while they were still misbehaving, stomping on other peoples block houses, tipping over other kids milk cups at lunch time, or spitting on people? Not many times. OK, stomping on block houses may have been exclusive to Fred, but you get the idea.
The idea goes along with the challenge post from earlier….can we look past unlovely?