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Not Defined by a Name

One of the toughest things is saying goodbye to a student.

Today, I did just that.

This young man’s attendance was very sporadic.  When he did show up, there was a lot of the typical drama you associate with teenagers.

He and I had a bond, though, because he knew I had taught two of his siblings.  Thus, he trusted me immediately.

As a result, he spent time after class and before school, talking to me about his struggles.

The list was long.  Out of respect for his privacy, I won’t share the specifics.

We always had “real talk,” where I didn’t mince words.  He never minded, because he knew that he could count on me to not sugar-coat things.  Though I’d like to be a Pollyanna, I can’t do that disservice to children who have been hardened by life’s harshest realities.

One thing he told me during our most recent conversation was, “Mrs. AuburnChick, what do you expect?  You know my last name.”

I looked at him with an incredulous expression.

This young man had fallen into an age-old trap…the trap of the self-fulfilling prophecy.

I have a feeling he was looking for sympathy.

What he got, instead, was a frank talk.

I told him that he is not defined by his name.

I told him that his excuse was a cop out.

I told him it was time to pull up his boot straps and step out of the muck that had become his life.

I shared with him some of my story…how I could have easily allowed myself to become someone else had I used the excuse that I was only following the path laid before me because of my name.

This young man’s family is very troubled.  His siblings have not made the best choices…a fact that is very disheartening given that I’ve taught a few of them.

I reminded him, for the umpteenth time, that he could break the cycle…that it boiled down to his choices.

He didn’t show up for class yesterday, and I started worrying.

That’s why I was so relieved when he came to see me during lunch.

He’d come to say goodbye, though, and my heart started breaking.

He’s not dropping out of school, thank heavens, but he won’t be where I can check in on him…where I can be the mama he needs in his life.

This will be hard.

I told him I’d be here if he needed anything, and I sent him away with a promise that I would pray for him.

As he left, tears rolled down my face.

I think I’ve already mentioned that it’s hard to say goodbye.

Though he’ll be out of sight, his name will forever be imprinted on my heart.

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