Lots of my students bring me wonderful presents during this season—there are several packages on my desk right now. Chocolate, ornaments and home-baked cookies. All of them wrapped brightly and given with hugs. But this week an extraordinary present came and I wasn’t expecting it. Not at all.
First, the back-story.
A couple of weeks ago a horrible accident happened to one of our precious teachers on staff where I teach. She is a beautiful, eccentric practical teacher who teaches a whole lot more than art. And I admire her; I am inspired rather than intimidated by her giftedness. She is a strong, strong woman.
She was in a car accident. A truck came through an intersection and slammed into the side of her car (the car is totaled). Both air bags deployed and her right arm was caught between an airbag and the steering wheel. Her arm was crumpled like tissue paper. Four days later she had to have surgery. The surgeon literally had to piece her arm back together like a puzzle. She has missed the last half of this term. And the students miss her.
Now at the busiest and most stressful time of the year she is without the use of her arm. An artist without her right arm. But she is a strong, strong woman.
Her daughter is in one of my classes. We will call her H. She is truly beautiful, wildly eclectic and quite flamboyant. H. is one of the delights of my day. But one day this week she arrived in class and it was obvious that this was not a good day. Her usual bright eyes and smile were dimmed. Her body language spoke volumes.
When we asked what was wrong she began to tell us that this was just a hard season and this was her mother’s birthday and she didn’t want her mother to be alone on her birthday.
That’s when it happened. The Christmas present came—all wrapped in plain brown paper. No jingle bells. No bows. No frills. One of the other students got up went around the table and sat down by H. and wrapped his arm around her.
The room went quiet. And there was a hushed expectancy.
I looked at the young man and then raised my hands to grasp the student’s next to me. Immediately the students circled for prayer. I looked at the young man who initiated and told him to begin and I would end and anyone could pray between us.
The students prayed—some aloud. Sincere and raw. And the tears seeped between my eyelashes.
Afterwards we called Mrs. M. H. put her on speaker phone and the whole class sang Happy Birthday. Incredibly, wondrously off-key and loud. I sat in my seat and watched the faces of these students and my heart swelled. (This is the same class from my post On Pause—see archives). We hung up the phone and then I explained I was going that afternoon to get a gift for Mrs. M. and if any one would like to contribute I would put it with some from another class. Not a word was said. But purses and billfolds began to open. Quietly. No fanfare. One student even dug a pile of change from his pockets and dumped it in my hands. In the course of about three minutes a whole lot of money accumulated.
And that afternoon we took a gift to Mrs. M.
This was Christmas.
Those moments in that class, from the time of the evident hurt and worry of H. to the student moving to her side, to prayer, to the generous outpouring of quarters and dollars, was Christmas.
And I looked around the room and saw hope. There is hope for this world as long as there are young people like these.
As long as there are young men and women who see hurt and woundedness, who move to comfort, who pray and then move to action then there is hope.