Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Holiday Blessings

I once had the opportunity to teach briefly in a school that held various personalities and characters from affluent families. That year, just as every other year, I began with a journal entry on "the worst thing that ever happened to you." Most of them said things like "the worst thing that ever happened to me was when my mom took my DVD player out of my room" or "the worst thing was when we had to leave Disneyworld early because of bad weather." Christmas holidays in that school were interesting in that I received so many gifts, it would take me three days to get them all home. I could have opened a Bath and Body Works store, and I had several cashmere scarves and numerous gift certificates to fine restaurants. My children would wait anxiously at home to see all the loot. It was quite embarrassing.

When I began teaching remedial reading at a different school, things began to change. The journal entries now read "the worst thing that ever happened to me was seeing my brother get shot" and "the worst thing was when my dad went to jail." No DVD players in these bedrooms. And on the last day before holiday break, I would hear many stories - "I'll bring you a present after Christmas when my grandma gets paid..."

Well, today I received my first ever gift from a student in this school. Nikki, a sweet but troubled little seventh grader, brought me a haphazardly wrapped box this morning. I opened it, expecting some candy or a handwritten note. Instead I pulled out a little music box, white and pretty, with a winter scene on the top. I opened it and immediately my rambunctious last-day-of-school-before-break class became totally quiet as the sound of Silent Night tinkled across the room. In the box lay a single, tiny nail file. Nikki began trying to explain why she put a nail file in there, but I talked over her, telling her how badly I needed one. I told her that I loved the music box and gave her a hug. As she walked away, she turned and quietly said, "I used to listen to it when I was a little girl." I silently gasped. Nikki had given me her music box. She had wrapped something meaningful to her, placed the only thing she could find in it, and handed it to me with more pride than I've ever seen her display over anything. My first thought as I look at the music box sitting in my den tonight is how important this gift will always be to me. My second thought is that I don't know why anyone would ever choose another career. We are truly blessed...

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