I spend a few hours a week with some pretty fragile kids. Some days are fun. Many days are a dance of re-direction. Sometimes things fall apart.
Mental health is difficult to quantify. It evades easy answers. Invisible to our eyes, a magnifying and shrinking machine lives inside. Normal hurt feelings and insecurities are magnified to almost unbearable size, while the part of the brain responsible for balanced reasonable response is reduced to miniature.
It’s safe to say that things with a young man we’ll call Thomas can be stormy. Standard operating procedure for our time together is a check in where he stops to tell me how much he hates everything we’re doing. The one time he stopped to tell me, “This is actually fun,” I considered booking a hearing test.
Jesus might sail through unphased by all the comments, but I do not. Mother Teresa and all the people who write books about how it’s done would probably take it with the grain of salt named troubled kid. I get the concept of not taking unstable kids personally just enough to feel discouraged that I don’t find it that easy. I aim for friendly, fair, and professional, but I don’t manage a lot of warm fuzzies.
Something changed the day Thomas ran screaming into the middle of a game, kicked the boundary markers, and ran back out of the circle. I got him to the sidelines but after that there was no commanding, convincing, or controlling. Wherever Thomas was that day, he was very far away. Up and down. Screaming, talking, to himself, to me, to no one. Waves of extreme agitation on a sea of upset, it was a disconcerting situation.
I stood near him and alternately spoke softly or was quiet while we waited for help to come. I saw him that day not as a teacher, but as a mother. So very, very lost and far away. I wanted to wrap my arms around him. Let him flail and kick and tell him he was still beloved.
While we waited for help to come, my heart did what my arms could not. Thomas left raging and out of control anyway. I went home heavy with sadness and worry. The other children deserved better and they would get it. But what of Thomas?
I offered prayers for him that night and begged for miracles. The picture of him on the ground flailing stayed with me. So much pain and heartbreak in one gangly young self.
A thought intruded on my prayers . . . “I was pleased with you today.”
Tears found a very quick path to my eyes. Could this be true?
I hadn’t fixed what was broken. I never would. I stood beside a raging boy quietly with compassion and I prayed.
What if? says a small voice. What if fixing is God’s business? What if all it takes to please God is to stand quietly beside his children with prayer and compassion? What then?
Copyright 2014, Michelle Dawn Jones