All families have pain. We have no idea the battles that people are facing, but sometimes we get a glimpse and see a small part of another’s struggle. And it is in those moments that we have the opportunity to help, which is exactly what one very special teacher did for a family.
It had been a rough transition for this family. After years spent in ministry, they were making a change and coming out of a situation that had been challenging to say the least. These young parents and children were stepping back into a world that to them felt alien. At this time in their marriage, they were hurting, frustrated, emotionally exhausted, and even angry at the turn of events life had taken.
Their son was a very gifted young man, but he struggled in some areas, especially when it came to processing emotions and his reactions to situations. Often, they felt like failures as parents, and there were times they were at their wits’ end and had no idea what to do next. This mom shared with me:
Many times, my child was looked at as different, and often I felt like others look down on me as a parent. Too often we spent our days frustrated as a parent, and in turn, our child was frustrated with us. Sometimes I felt like our family was just a bomb waiting to explode. We were hurting and angry and did not know how to help our son, let alone how to help ourselves.
It was at this point that an angel stepped in. As they returned home, they decided that to help their son acclimate, it would be best to place him back in school after Christmas for the second half of the year. What they did not realize at the time was that this decision would be the amazing new start they needed and would help their entire family:
We called the principal and explained what we needed, and she had the perfect solution. The solution came in the form of our son’s first grade teacher, Mrs. Linda Abernathy. She was perfect for our son, but little did we know that she was perfect for our entire family.
One of the first days after being in her class, our son came home and told us, “Today we had band in class and Mrs. Abernathy let me play the drums on my desk.” I remember sitting back and thinking, “Wow, something that drives me so crazy, this teacher celebrated.” There was also the time when my son came home and said, “Today I was telling Mrs. Abernathy a Bible story, and she let me go to the class and preach a Bible lesson.”
Slowly over time, they saw the confidence this built in their son. Little by little, he was being celebrated for who he was. It was like a switch being flipped for their entire family. A new day and fresh start were occurring for them. Daily, their son was celebrated for his uniqueness and for the way that he had been created special. As this happened, it helped these parents do the same. This teacher was helping this family not only heal and find a new beginning, but celebrate their son’s uniqueness in the process.
Daily, through the stories this son told his parents, this family was given little rays of hope that, in spite of the past, showed a new start was possible. A new start, not just for their son, but for their family. Even something as simple as celebrating his dad’s birthday was made special by this teacher, when she had the class make cards to send home. While it may not have seemed significant at the time, it made an impact.
In many everyday ways, this teacher took the time to see what was special about their son and, in the process, impacted the family in ways she never imagined. As I sat with this teacher and parent, this mom simply said, “Through your investment in my son, you invested in our family, during a time when we needed love more than anything else. That is what you showed us, and you saved our family. You loved our son in a way that helped us as a family feel very loved.”
This teacher bowed her head, humbled by the kind words. If you know Mrs. Abernathy, you know this experience is not unique. This is how she loves the children in her class. Each child is unique, and that is celebrated. She loves each in a special way and, in turn, shows these families love.
Sometimes, we as teachers and parents forget that it is never too late for a fresh start. Each day, each year, is a new beginning, and we must remember:
- Our children are unique, special, and should be celebrated. No matter how small, it is special.
- We all need a chance to shine and show something in which we have a gift or talent.
- It is often not the big things but the simple, little, everyday events that show this to our children.
- There are no cookie-cutter approaches to raising children. Our approach to each child must be as unique as he or she is.
- We never know what another is walking through, which is why our everyday actions are so important—because they may be a lifeline the child or family needs.
- Every child in your life needs to be seen and loved for who he or she is.
- As parents, we all sometimes doubt our abilities, but like so many things, the journey is what we make of it and how we love those little ones.
- Each day and each moment is new—and we all need a chance at a fresh start.
As we finished the discussion, Mrs. Abernathy looked at this mom and just simply said, “Thank you for trusting me with your child.” That is why this teacher is so special. She sees each child as something to be thankful for, and looks at each opportunity as a privilege, not a burden.
Now, years later, this young man is in the gifted program at school and has a confidence that was born in that small classroom, with a teacher who saw his significance and uniqueness and celebrated him. She loved him in a way that every child deserves to be loved, and through simple, everyday events, she showed me and so many others how to be a better teacher and parent.
She gave this family, this child, a fresh start, and a new perspective and path, that set this family on a new trajectory during that new year, that changed the course of their family for a lifetime. May each of us try to live what Mrs. Abernathy so lovingly showed us. Thank you, Mrs. Abernathy, for impacting so many families along the way. You have blessed more than you will ever know.
This article was originally published in American Essence magazine.