Sunday, September 17, 2006

You are not the only one... who feels like the only one

Today I had a pretty hard phone conversation with one of my students. Alejandro is a pretty funny kid, he's fine with major behavior issues, but generally just a total spaz in my class. Since the first day of school Alejandro had a very likable way about him, but now that we're five weeks in, he's up and down emotionally, I constantly have to move him and he's hard to deal with. He had a detention with me last week and before we met I had heard from another teacher that Alejandro has a very rough home life and is easily influenced by his peers. I'm glad I had this information because it changed the way I discussed things with him. We addressed his behavior and the need to be more serious and then he told me part of the reason he got in trouble the other day was because two girls in my class were making fun of him. I told him I would talk to the girls, but he still had to take accountability for his actions. On Friday I had one of the girls in my room for detention so I talked to her about Alejandro. She's aware of his home life, so I really put it to her as to why she would make the one safe place he comes be a place where he has to feel bad about himself. I'm really hoping our conversation will turn into her supporting him more. She did tell me that another student... one who I really lose my patience with for a variety of reasons... was telling everyone that Alejandro had a blue bandanna and they should jump him after school. This was on my sub day, also the day Alejandro got in a lot of trouble with the sub. My student told me Alejandro was getting really upset because he didn't have a bandanna and didn't want to get jumped (just to note, red and blue are our gang colors... blue for the black kids, red for the Mexican).

Alejandro didn't come to school that day so I called him today to check up on him. He didn't get jumped because he went straight home, but he told me he didn't like school that much because people made fun of him. He said he wanted to come to my class and he knew learning was important, but he didn't think he was a very good student and could do it. He told me he feels pretty alone at school because people like my other student make him feel so bad. It's things like this conversation that really kick you in teeth with the reality of your life. This is it, I'm not a kid. Alejandro is a kid and he's reaching out to me for help. I'm doing my best, but I feel lost myself sometimes. What if I don't say the right things or handle the situation in the right way? I think I helped, but I'm not sure.

All that kept running through my head when I was on the phone with him was a song I heard in church today. One of the lines read "You are not the only one who feels like the only one." I remember being 13 and I know that statement doesn't really fix anything even if it is true. Alejandro is not the only one who feels the same way and the sad thing is is that the people making his life hard are probably feeling the same way. My pastor talked about a girl in a brothel in India who was a Christian and in her bunk where she was kept she had written Psalm 27.

The LORD is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?
2 When evil men advance against me
to devour my flesh, [a]
when my enemies and my foes attack me,
they will stumble and fall.
3 Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then will I be confident.
4 One thing I ask of the LORD,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple.
5 For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle
and set me high upon a rock.
6 Then my head will be exalted
above the enemies who surround me;
at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the LORD.
7 Hear my voice when I call, O LORD;
be merciful to me and answer me.
8 My heart says of you, "Seek his [b] face!"
Your face, LORD, I will seek.
9 Do not hide your face from me,
do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
O God my Savior.
10 Though my father and mother forsake me,
the LORD will receive me.
11 Teach me your way, O LORD;
lead me in a straight path
because of my oppressors.
12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
breathing out violence.
13 I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.

Even with the awful things that happened to this child, she wrote this prayer. She waited for God to come to her and she held fast. Now she works with the international justice mission saving children like her from being sold to brothels.
This story and the conversation I had with Alejandro today mix with some things that have been weighing on my heart recently. I love what I'm doing and I truly feel like God has called me to be in this place and use my gifts to make a difference in this world, but I'm wondering now if he's calling me to more. I can do a lot to help Alejandro in my classroom. I can do a lot to help him as a person, but at the end of the day, it's not me who is going to offer him the refuge that the little girl in India had. Before I came here to teach a few very influential people in my life reminded me that it is not education that will save these children in the end. I almost took offense to the comments, it seemed like a slap in the face to my commitment, but now I see that they were readying my heart for what else I would be lead to. Education is going to help these children in the here and now, but there is so much more that they need. Mr. Matthews is a part of a small group at our church and they are talking about moving over to Denver Harbor and living here and reaching out to the children in the community. At first this seemed a little much. I basically live at the school, but day by day God is showing me that my call to this neighborhood is far more than in the classroom. My call to this neighborhood involves not just their education, but their hearts.

Alejandro, like the girl in India, is just one of an endless amount of children who need to know they are not the only ones. Today, he knows I am here, but you cannot depend solely on the people around you when God is the one who will truly comfort you. Every day I'm seeing that more and more and it's shaping my direction in the here and now.


Matthew Wilson said...

This is powerful stuff.

Thank you Sam, you've reinspired me, seriously!


Anonymous said...

The "influential" people that told you that education will not save these children in the end have on and teachers like you are giving these kids the tools necessary to save them in the end...God gave them the ability to make the choice how to use these tools that you are providing them with...just remember, to save these children you have to start with one, not the many, and proceed one child at a time...sooooo, if you influence just one child, all the frustration and heartache will have been well worth it...keep up the good work and stay strong in your faith and you will be guided in the right direction..."Hi" from Matt's Mom

Made by Lena