Monday, December 24, 2012

The Ugliest Most Beautiful Gift

I recently made an addition to the decor on my desk at work.  It's pretty ugly and I keet waiting to hear someone jokingly mutter about it under their breath as they walk past.  But no one has.  In truth, they probably don't know that I think it's ugly and are doing their best to avoid hurting my feelings.  I'm kind of surprised that no one has even asked me where it came from or why it's there.  It's really not my style, but more like that of the movie stereotypical grandmother who collects all sorts of things.  Yet I've had it for nearly ten years.  I've moved it to three cities and six houses.  Each time unpacking it and putting it in the trash pile.  If I were Bilbo Baggins, this would be my ring. (That might be a stretch, but you get the idea).  It always calls to me from the trash and I continue to rescue it.  Why?

It was the fall of 2003 and I was on my student teaching adventure in a diverse school in the Uptown neighborhood in Chicago.  I was nearing what had been a tough, eye-opening semester during which I questioned whether or not I really had what it takes to be a teacher. They were a beautiful little class of varying ethnicities and personalities; a representation of the surrounding community. They were also urban almost-middle-schoolers and a somewhat difficult class to manage.  I loved them, but I was quite often grateful that I had a "real" teacher present to guide me at all times.

It's traditional to have a little going away party for student teachers and this class was no different.  On my last day, we had treats and the kids gave me all kinds of cards saying I was the best teacher ever (yes, some of the kids were lying).  Some of the kids had gone with their parents to the corner store and brought me little candies, but it was the gift of this one little girl that still adorns my desk ten years later.

I remember that she was Vietnamese and that her parents spoke almost no English.  In fact, they had come to parent teacher conferences and we had not been able to successfully communicate with them.  The girl would wear the same outfit for a couple of days in a row, but she was always clean.  She had the face of an angel; one of those faces that literally beamed when she smiled.  It was that face that brought me a wrapped gift on that, my last, day as her student teacher.  I unwrapped it, preparing myself to give off an air of joy (fellow teachers will understand this), and reminded myself to smile and thank the girl.

It wasn't until years later that I could fully appreciate the gift.  The little girl thought it was beautiful and she wanted to give me a beautiful gift. I don't know the story of what it took for the girl to get the gift or what her family had to sacrifice so that she could, but I can imagine.  I'm certain there was no allowance to save up or extra money in the bank.  Yet this little girl found a way to send me off with something of beauty.  Why?  Probably because she loved me.  That is not a statement of pride, but of awe.  I did nothing special for her to love me. 

Just like I did nothing special to be loved, but God sent Jesus to die for me anyway.

Just like I hope to love on kids who come through our house in years to come.

So I keep this gift on my desk as a reminder; that there is beauty in the unexpected; to ask about people's stories; to love without expectations and with abandon; to hold close to my heart that I was and am loved in much the same way.

May you find something once thought ugly and, tonight, find a beauty hovering in its depths. 

1 comment:

Nicki Sasso said...

Absolutely love this story/gift! As a fellow teacher I completely understand! Beautiful!!