I was just finishing up my first class and I was actually feeling quite excited about my morning so far, when I went to the hallway and saw a little boy standing outside the classroom that I was about to enter. He was obviously being punished and very angry about whatever he did. I walked passed him thinking “I wonder how long you can keep a child in the hallway?” I was also a little relieved that I didn't have to start class number two with a possible heckler in my midst. With this dichotomy playing in my head, I started in on my second group of kids for the day. We were just about to go for some fun rhymes and rapping when the door opened and in entered Anthony, our friend in the hallway.
The teacher opened the door and without explanation or introduction let him in the room while he was seething with anger. She did not come in with him. I was on my own to handle the situation. Anthony sat down in the back of the class far away from everyone and began to rip up a piece of construction paper with a vengeance, as if it were someone’s head he was tearing off. He had big crocodile tears in his eyes, yet he was visibly enraged.
Without much thought, I walked directly back to his seat and knelt down beside him. It was as if I was being pulled in his direction. He was still growling with anger and ripping the paper as tears hung on the end of his big eyes. I immediately felt that this was too much rage for such a small child. I spoke, not from a premeditated speech for ill-tempered children but with a pain in my heart for Anthony.
This is what I said to him:
“Hey, can you hear me?” (Rip, rip, rip, grunt) “Shake your head if you can hear my voice.” Small nod of the head. “I want you to take a deep breath and let some air into your body.” One deep breath. “Good, take another one to help you calm down.” He breathed again and very deeply. “Good, keep breathing until you feel better.” He did. “Now what I want you to know is that you haven’t done anything wrong with me. So if you want to, you can start again in my class and have some fun. I’m not angry with you, so we can just start fresh…okay?” Small nod. “What’s your name?” “Anthony” “Oh, cool, I know some really nice Anthonys. Now when you’re ready, you can join the class, okay?” Bigger nod no more ripping. It was later that Anthony would collect all the crayons for me and bring them to me after class with pride.
In all my years of hearing messages of redemption and forgiveness, I've never really been able to quite grasp the concept the way God has wanted me to. I've always struggled with not being forgiven by others and myself. I simply did not believe that people had the capacity to move pass major errors and truly forgive and by people, I mean me. However, after talking with my young friend this morning, I realize how God does it and how He wants us to follow His lead, with a simple wiping of the slate and starting fresh. I saw how a second chance can really free a person, namely the one who is hurting the most. So, I decided to forgive me, fully and completely for all the things that I have been holding against myself for so long, with a simple do-over. I also decided that by the grace of the One who knows me best, I can be okay with a new chance to be a better more peaceful me. I suppose Anthony felt the same kind of relief this morning as I do now, perhaps feeling as if he’s worthy of another chance.
Like Anthony, I get to join in on the fun of life again…without feeling guilty about yesterday’s mistakes.