Miss Pickling was close to tears after witnessing a miracle in her kindergarten classroom. Okay , maybe not quite a miracle, but it certainly refilled a passion for teaching in her almost empty tank.
She dreaded the chaos of this year’s Christmas party, and spent most of the time eyeing the clock so she could rush to the mall to finish her shopping. In her fifth year of teaching, burnout had seeped in, because one child named Angel had stolen her last ounce of patience. “Stolen” was the right word as little Angel was the classroom thief.
Just a few days before, one child’s lunchroom money had disappeared, and Miss Pickling asked the class to help look for it. Almost in unison, they all cried “Angel did it. She always steals. ” Miss Pickling admonished them about being too quick to judge , since Angel had been absent that day, but she didn’t really blame them.
Since Angel had a birthday and came to school beaming about her new Barbie fanny pack, little things were disappearing in the classroom. Miss Pickling learned to first look in Angel’s beloved fanny pack, where she’d find missing treasures like a pencil, barrette, or lunch money. She’d confiscate it until the end of the day and return the stolen item, asking Angel to apologize and to "please stop stealing."
A compassionate teacher , she believed in giving each child a clean slate each day, so every morning Angel could keep her fanny pack , until a crime was committed, knowing she had few things at home that were just hers. This was a low-income school district and many of her kids came from stark poverty.
Miss Pickling had to resort to sending Angel to the counselor’s office at the times her stealing seemed impossible to control. No amount of warning or counseling ever helped Angel understand that stealing was unacceptable behavior.
Miss Pickling, a mature but young Christian, who adored small children, had found it sometimes hard to love Angel , the way she knew she should.
Angel bullied the other children, held grudges for days, and when Miss Pickling told the class to hurry their steps in their line to go to lunch, Angel intentionally and defiantly slowed down. Miss Pickling hated to confess to the other teachers that Angel was winning, causing her stomach to tighten each day Angel walked into the class. The days she was absent always went smoother.
Miss Pickling cried out to God often in her drive home to please give her His love for Angel. Without it she knew she would fail this child, and she just wanted to make a positive impact in her life.
When the time came for Miss Pickling to open her teacher gifts from the class, she realized the inevitable “teacher burnout” had seeped into her spirit. Instead of enjoying the unwrapping of each “Best Teacher Mug” or cheap drugstore chocolates, she’d eye the clock.
The kids all beamed when their present was being unwrapped. It was all Miss Pickling could do to fake a sweet smile and give each of them a hug and “thank you,” when she noticed snickering from the group of children gathered around her desk.
One present , small but obviously poorly wrapped, probably by a student , was causing the others to snicker and make critical remarks. Immediately she knew that some mom had forgotten the gift, and the poor child had grabbed something at home to wrap for her.
Miss Pickling grabbed that gift with a smile and felt a warmth of compassion moving through her heart. How could she feel so cold when one of her kids had been this thoughtful ?
She’d hated herself for her impatience, but when she unwrapped Angel’s fanny pack, she was speechless.
Tears flowed down Miss Pickling's face as they all broke into jeering with rude remarks like “That’s no present. Angel , that’s YOUR fanny pack. That doesn’t count as a real gift. That’s not even store- bought. “
Miss Pickling wrapped her arms around Angel, laying a kiss on her cheek and whispered… “Angel, can you keep a secret? That was the best gift I’ve ever been given.”
Angel’s face lit up, as she announced to the class that "Miss Pickling said mine was the best gift,” but that was okay with Miss Pickling.
Angel needed that moment to glisten.
And all the class fell silent.
Note: This story was true. The teacher is my daughter, and will return to teaching kindergarten when her children are old enough for school. The lesson Angel taught her that day is now a traditional family story on Christmas morning.
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