It was Thanksgiving week and five students in my middle school literature class chose to read a selection about India. During the Wednesday literature circle, they immediately focused on the serious aspects of the piece. “It seems sad,” mused Danny, “that the people in India are starving while we have so much.”
I waited for a response to Danny’s insight. “At Thanksgiving, people ask what we are thankful for and we say we are thankful for homes, and cars, and things like that,” Lori offered. After a brief hesitation, she looked up at me and the wide crooked scar marring her face from above her left eye to her chin became fully visible. Then she continued, “But this year I found out what it really means to be thankful.” Lori’s statement surprised me. In August she and her mother were in a car accident. Lori survived. Her mother was killed instantly. Confidently she finished, “I’m thankful God let me have such a great mother. She was so much fun! She would always stop what she was doing and take time for us.” As Lori concluded, her eyes brimmed with tears and she looked down. As we sat in silence, I reached out and touched Lori’s arm.
The silence was broken as vivacious Elissa tossed her head, forcing her long hair away from her face. “Since we’re talking about real things,” she said, “I’m thankful for something special, too.” We waited. Then she continued, her voice quieter. “We moved here because this school has a special program for deaf students,” she said. “My brother is deaf. Dad and Mom quit their jobs and sold our home so we could come here. We don’t have as much, and we rent a house now. But I’m thankful that God gave Daren to our family because we understand he is very special.” Elissa looked across the circle and into my eyes. I wondered at her wisdom.
It was Clarise who next interrupted the silence. “You know,” she said thoughtfully, “you can be thankful for making a good decision.” After a long pause, I prompted, “Have you made a decision for which you are thankful?” Clarise glanced away briefly and then back to the circle. “My baby brother was in the hospital with leukemia,” she began timidly. “My dad told us Mom wanted the baby to come home. With eight kids in our family, we couldn’t pay a nurse. Dad asked us to take turns caring for our brother in the evenings and at night so my mom would be rested to take care of him during the day. He said we would bring the baby home if everyone agreed. We each voted on a piece of paper. I’m thankful that we decided to keep him home until he died.”
The next sound to break the silence was the bell signaling the end of class. The students disappeared into the hallway, but they left with me a greater understanding of the scripture: “No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5:18 (LB)
Loved my years of teaching!
© Verla Lacy Powers
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