The purpose of this post is not to depress you. Nor is it to make you feel guilty in some way. The purpose is to hopefully allow you to reflect on what you have to be thankful for, however small it may seem to be.
Recently, a student came to my room and asked if I would allow him to do some work he had for my class. It was my free period, so I told him yes. So he went back to tell the study hall teacher where he would be. Upon his return, the following unfolded.
“Wagg (that is what he calls me), I want to apologize for my behavior lately. I know I have been talking too much in your class”. He then proceeded to tell me what was bothering him. He told me that his mother was dying of cancer. His father, who lives in Michigan, was dying of liver disease – he was an alcoholic. The man he considers his father – who helped raise him since he was two years old – was also dying of cancer. His older brothers, who were trying to turn their lives around, had made some mistakes. They might be going to jail. As he characterized it, “I am living with this 7/24 and sometimes I just need to let things out.” Wow.
We continued to talk. He told me that he prefers to be around adults rather than kids his own age because he likes to learn. As an example, he told me he was in McDonald’s the other day and saw an older man sitting by himself. So this 17 year old started talking to the man. Because he doesn’t like to see anyone alone. Because he wanted to gain some wisdom from an older person. And he told me he enjoyed the time. That is a side of him I guarantee none of us has ever witnessed or would have know about him until he told me.
This young man does not have very advanced social skills. He is sometimes lacking in proper hygiene. He doesn’t always use the filter we all have in our brains for decided when and what to say. He has a REALLY tough existence. I suspect I am the only person who treats him as he should be treated – just like every other kid in my room. I have expectations for him to do well. I engage him in conversation. I push him to do better. And I tease him just like I tease many other kids. I believe that is why he opened up to me.
We all have our burdens. Perhaps there are many things going wrong with your life. But can they be more than this 17 year old has on his plate? As we gather for this very important holiday, I pray we all might look inside our lives and find many things to be thankful for. If not, perhaps we need to look a little deeper and ask ourselves if we would prefer to change places with this young man.
I know my Dad and Mom up in heaven steered this story my way for a purpose. The two of them were always strong advocates for the downtrodden and the less fortunate. They always displayed a compassionate heart. I appreciate the lessons they taught me and the example they should for those less fortunate.
As a postscript to this whole story, my family is going to try to help a little. The last few years we have anonymously adopted a family at Christmas to provide gifts for the needy. We are going to adopt this young man this year. Perhaps we can bring him a little joy. Have a great Thanksgiving