My wife Lynn is a teacher. Each year she begins with an activity that helps her get to know her students. She will give them a small card that has a simple starter statement on it. The students have to finish the sentence. All of the starter statements are the same.
After the first day of school she will bring home over 100 of these cards and she’ll begin to study them. Each card gives her a brief glimpse into the lives of her students in the coming semester.
Many times the students simply list all of the activities they are in. I am…a soccer player. I am…a dancer. I am…a skier.
Sometimes, curiosity will get the best of me and I’ll read through the stack of cards. In my mind I try to picture the kids who will be in her math class this year.
As I was going through the cards, I found one card that read: “I am…a great athlete. I am…really smart. I am… good looking. I am…little conceited. I am… just kidding.” I laughed.
Another card read: “I am…a piano player. I am…shy. I am…an okay student. I am…a sister. I am…a Christian.”
And then there was the card that I will never forget. I almost missed it. As I flipped through the cards, I thought it was an extra card that nobody had used.
It was an easy mistake to make because the first four “I am” statements were blank. Then my eyes drifted down to the last “I am” statement. It simply read, “I am…NOTHING!”
As I stared at the card my feelings went from shock, to sadness, to anger.
I asked myself “What could have happened to this child of twelve to make her believe that she was “Nothing”?” What were her parents telling her? What was she hearing daily from teachers, coaches, neighbors and other students? Where were the people who were supposed to be loving her unconditionally?
Unfortunately this is really all too common. One student wrote it, but so many others feel it. For some the feeling lasts only a short while. For others, it seems to be all of the time.
After reading the “I am…NOTHING” card, Lynn and I talked about what we could do. Even though there were no names on the cards, Lynn was able deduce who the student was. Throughout the semester she encouraged the student and loved her. She pointed out her gifts and tried everyday to build her up. Often, before school began she would sit in that student’s desk and pray for her and her family.
We also talked to our boys about how important it is to reach out to students who may be struggling or who look lonely at school. We encouraged them to be bold. Ask that student to sit with them at lunch. Invite them to join in the pick up games after school. Smile at them and say, “Hi”. Stand up for them when others won’t.
As the school year is about to begin for so many students, let’s try to remember that there are kids who don’t have homes of love. Talk about this with your kids and let them be ambassadors of love in their schools this year. Look for opportunities to reach out to that kid who never hears from an adult that they are lovable and have worth. What might our schools and communities look like if every student could write on their card, “I am…Loved!”
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying,
“Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
By Pete Larson
Husband to Lynn
Father of two
1 Corinthians 13 Parenting Team Member
Executive Director of Family Fest Ministries