He listened to his teacher's words, telling him that he "wasn't trying" and that he "needed to shape up!". He could feel that familiar rumble in his brain start to burn and he hated her with all the intensity a nine year old boy can hate. He wanted to cry, to go home to his mother but he would not let this teacher know how much she was hurting him. He would hurt her too!
Even though he had promised his mom he would try harder, he couldn't keep back the anger that came pouring out. He had tried to count to ten but then she had grabbed his shoulder to get his attention and the touch set off the bomb that seemed to always be ticking inside of him. He lashed out at her, bring his arm down hard on hers. Instinctively she pushed him harder and then any control he had was gone.
Later as he sat in the principal's office he did cry. He cried so hard that he couldn't stop, even after his mom came and held him close.
"Why can't I be good like the other kids?", he asked in a choking voice still fighting the sobs.
"I asked God to not let me lose my temper, mommy, I really did! But I did do my best on that test, I just can't seem to remember things like other kids. My mind just keeps going places, it won't listen to me even when I try those things you tell me to try. She hates me and makes fun of me in front of the other kids! Why do I have to be so different? Why couldn't God give me a teacher like last year? She always rubbed my shoulders when she saw me losing interest. That really helped me listen better. But this teacher just yells out my name in front of everyone! Am I so bad God doesn't care any more?" he asked with the lost look she had come to know so well.
The mother inside of her boiled to the surface, ready to take the whole system on but for now she had to control herself, not let the anger cause her to give him damaged advice.
" I don't know why God made you different, but I am so glad he did! Who else but you would notice the butterfly hidden in the flowers? Or write a story with so many twists?! I know that school frustrates you and that this short fuse of yours controls you sometimes. I know that when we are hurting we think God isn't listening. That He doesn't care about us. But really, the opposite is true! When we hurt, God hurts with us. Maybe God couldn't make them give you the best teacher this year, but he gave you a teacher last year who let you know what works best with you. So you don't have to guess what helps you! It might seem like a small thing but God knows that small things can turn into big things. We can both sit here and hate her because she hurt your feelings but I don't think that is what God wants. There must be something God wants you to learn through this that we can't see because we are angry."
"She makes you angry too?" he asked in wonder.
"Well, I love you and anything that hurts you makes me angry but that doesn't mean I quit looking for ways for that person to help you", she said with hope in heart that he could hear something positive from her.
They both sat there in silence as they waitied for the principal to call them into his office. He sat there wondering if God meant for him to help the teacher. I mean, surely God understood that no one listens to a kid, especially a teacher! But what if that is exactly what God wanted from him? Could he be brave enough to try? Mommy had said it's the things that are hard that are sometimes the most important.....
She held him tight wondering about her own words. Did she mean them? Was there something God wanted them to do with all this hurt so it wouldn't be wasted?
The office lady smiled gently at them and told them they could go in to the principal's office, a room she had come to know well since he had been placed with this teacher.
"Well, Adam, I am beginning to think I should get you your own chair, I see you so much lately!", he smiled at the child as he knew despite his temper problem, he was a tender hearted child. He had watched him one day on the play ground take a child that was being teased and telling everyone this was his new best friend! He had watched how the other kids accepted anyone he did. He was well liked by his peers and that told the principal, he wasn't a lost cause. He also knew that the teacher was in a stressful situation with her mom in the hospital and probably wasn't the best person for this little boy. But he had no room to put him anywhere else.
"I talked to some of the other kids and they said you didn't like it when the teacher touched you."
"No", he said softly, "but that's not why I got mad. She made fun of me in front of the other kids!"
"I can see where you might think that, but I think she was trying to tell you she thinks you are smart and can do better! Maybe you got mad for no reason?"
Adam thought about that for a moment and then he felt a warmth go through him and an idea seem to pop into his head out of no where!
"Principal Johnson! Maybe God let me get mad so we could learn to help each other!"
Principal Johnson didn't have a clue what he meant and looked at him with raised eyebrows encouraging him to continue.
"See, mommy said God can use anything, even our bad faults to teach us! I mean, everyone knows I have a temper but Joey doesn't and he has the same trouble learning I do. I see his face when she is fussing at him for making so many mistakes. What if she doesn't know that what she says hurts us? I mean, I am not like Joey, I can't help but let her know I don't like it! But what if she doesn't know what it is I don't like, what it is that makes me so mad? I wonder if God put me there because he knew I would speak up for kids like Joey? Because if what you said is true, if she thinks she's helping, she needs to know she is not! Can you sit with me if I talk to her? I'm not mad no more!"
Every instinct Principal Johnson had in regards to the "rules" told him you can't let a child tell a teacher what's wrong! But he had been torn knowing she was stressed out and yet caring about this bundle of turmoil sitting before him too. But this little boy actually thought God had a reason for his hurt! How could he tell him God didn't work that way? He felt a warmth go through him, some deep compassion he didn't know still existed and he heard himself calling his assistant, "Can you get Mrs. Melville in here please?"
The mother felt a moment of panic picturing her child facing what seemed to be stern non caring teacher. She was about to object when it seemed all the words just flowed right out of her and she sat there with her son waiting for the teacher.
Mrs. Melville walked into the room and was suprised to see the child and his mother there. She hoped they didn't see her watery eyes.
"Mrs Melville," Principal Johnson started, "Adam here feels like you two need to make peace, right Adam?"
Adam looked up to his teacher and a little fear began to creep in. What made him think God could use him for anything? He had a bad temper, could never follow all her instructions, how could he make a difference? Then once again he felt that love fill his heart and he took a deep breath and words he didn't knew he had came rushing out.
"Mrs. Melville, I don't hate you anymore! I mean, I know I make you mad when I can't remember everything you say! And Joey and Lucy have trouble too but they are really shy! God didn't make me shy though I asked him to! Last year my teacher told me I learn best with little pieces so she would only give some of us 1 or two things to do at a time. When she saw me getting confused when she was giving directions, she gave me a secret sign, she would touch her ear, and I would know to just listen but she would come to some of us later and give us smaller pieces. At first I thought she was trying to say I was dumb and I started to get mad but she said if I looked at a puzzle, it has lots of small pieces but if you just put one together at a time, you still get the puzzle done! There were four of us who needed small pieces and she call us her secret sign gang! I don't think you know you hurt Joey, Lucy and my feelings! You don't know that when I get hurt I get mad sometimes. I thought maybe I could teach you some secret signs and we could be your secret sign gang!"
Mrs. Melville sat there stunned listening to this small boy, he didn't look so bad now that he wasn't swinging! She had only been trying to point out how to learn better, she had never meant to hurt them! She thought for a moment how Joey looked near to tears that morning when she reminded him he needed to work faster as the other kids were done already. When did her sense of compassion go away? Was she really the angry one? Her mom's illness had her so worried and she was, well, angry that God was putting this good woman through so much agony. Had she taken it out on the kids? She felt her own tears starting to stir again when she felt his small hand take hers.
"God loves us Mrs. Melville and even thought I'm probably the worse of the class, he can still do something with me if you help me!"
She did what any good teacher would do. She bent over and gave him a hug and told him he was right, that she really didn't know she was hurting their feelings and would he teach her some of those secret signs?
The mother and son left that day with the mom marveling how her son's simple faith had found the answers her complicated spirit had not seen.
Mrs. Melville arrived at the hospital that day and shared the story with her mom, tears spilling freely but this time with love and her mom telling her that she had missed her sharing class stories. She was tired of everyone worrying about her and treating her different!
Principal Johnson threw his briefcase in the back seat of his car and for a moment chuckled to himself. Sometimes what they taught you in college didn't matter to a hill of beans compared to the simple words of a child. Maybe it was time to start listening to them before they judged them. He rememberd part of a verse from his youth, "seek and ye shall find". Well, maybe it was time to do a little more seeking for the truth and who knew what they might find?
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