Raul’s Gift

I’m not in the classroom every day. And, boy, do I miss it. Those rotten kids have a knack for weaseling their way into my heart. Teaching is so hard, but I miss knowing what’s really going on in our students’ lives.

I’m thankful for the work I have now, though. By helping with sponsorship, I’ve been able to peek into classrooms. And I feel like a proud grandma observing all her sweet grandchildren growing up so quickly.

A few weeks ago, I walked into Miss Mery’s classroom, excited to find our 1st grader, Raul. His sponsor family had sent down a small sack of goodies for him, and I was eager to pass along a hug and spend a moment catching up with him. I scanned the room full of brown, little faces until I finally locked eyes with Raul.

Immediately, I knew something was wrong.  When I called his name, Raul dropped his head and averted his eyes. Uh-oh, I thought. Somebody’s not having a good day. I put on my best smile and called his name again. He slowly stood up and begrudgingly shuffled towards the door to meet me.

Suddenly, someone yelled out in front of the entire class. “You want Raul?! He doesn’t deserve a gift! He went to the office for fighting this morning! In fact, why don’t you just keep him for the rest of the day? We don’t want him back in here.” By the time the barrage of hateful words had ceased, Raul was by my side, eyes glued ashamedly to the floor.

He doesn’t deserve a gift. I was angry that someone would make such a spiteful comment about Raul in front of his other peers. The “mama bear” in me wanted to protect him. But instead of saying what I really wanted to, I calmly replied, “Well, I’ll be sure to talk to him. It’ll be fine.”

He doesn’t deserve a gift. The words kept ringing through my mind as we silently walked out of the classroom. How am I going to smooth this over? I wondered. We looked for a spot to sit down.

There were some folding chairs in the breezeway. As we set them up on the sidewalk, I was at a loss for what to say. Maybe I can remind him how important and loved he is. Or maybe I’ll tell him just to ignore the mean comments. Perhaps we can talk about how to “rise above” the hatefulness and “be the better person.” 

But on a whim, I decided to take a different approach.

“Buddy, did their words back there hurt your feelings?” Raul barely nodded. “They weren’t saying nice things, were they? But you know what? One thing they said was actually true.”

Raul just looked straight ahead, not making eye contact, but still listening. “Remember how they said that you don’t deserve this gift? They’re actually right! Do you know what it means for somebody to give you a gift? A gift is something that’s especially for you without any expectation of payment. You don’t have to buy a gift, do you? A gift is something that’s free. And if you’ll listen for just a minute, I want to tell you about Someone who gave the biggest and best gift that’s ever been given….”

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Sometimes I feel a literal ache in my heart when I think of how these precious little babes are running headlong into an eternity without God. What will happen if their lives aren’t supernaturally intercepted? God’s great wrath, which is so heavily hanging over their heads, will have to be satisfied. There is a darkness waiting for them that I refuse to dwell on.

Pray with me, please. Pray that our teachers would seek out moments to share God’s great love-gift with their students. Pray that they would be so filled up with Jesus that His grace just spills out through their every word and action.

And pray that our students’ eyes would be opened to the truth. Pray that their working minds would fully understand and that their hearts would not delay in accepting the precious gift of eternal life that’s so freely waiting for them.

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