I have developed a heartfelt bond with him through this school year. I knew his story before he entered my fifth grade classroom and my heart has felt his pain on many occasions. Two years ago his dad was killed instantly by a drunk driver when walking home from his job as a chef at a popular local restaurant. When first talking to him you may never suspect his pain. He has an outgoing and inquisitive personality and loves to talk. On most days, he comes into class with a smile and a cheerful “Good Morning, Mr. Fiore” but then there are days when his anger erupts and his pain is transparent. Through his tears, he confides in me – “it is not fair, it is not fair!” I offer him my support and try my best to encourage and calm him, but I agree with him – it is not fair.
After one of his weekly support group counseling sessions with our guidance counselor, our class went outside for a “Celebrate Peace Week” project. The students were directed to use chalk and draw a symbol on the sidewalk that best represented peace to them. Most students drew rainbows, sunsets, peace signs and butterflies. When I walked over to his drawing, I was awestruck. He had drawn a human size picture of Jesus clothed in a purple robe and crown with his arm around another figure he was in the process of finishing. I didn’t know what to say, but he did. “Mr. Fiore, this is what sometimes gives me peace…knowing my Dad is in heaven.” Trying not to get emotional, I told him I believe his dad is smiling down on him right now and is so proud of him. Although this was a peaceful moment for him, I could not help but question the purpose in the pain he will continue to experience.
This past week, my fifth grade class was excited to begin their Gang Resistance And Drug Education (G.R.A.D.E.) session with our school resource officer. As the police officer was talking with the class about the effects of alcohol and drugs this young man raised his hand and announced to the class that he will never drink and drive since his dad was killed by a drunk driver. The entire class was silent. Most of the class did not know his story and did not know what to say. I quickly interrupted the silence by complimenting him for being so brave and for sharing. I then seized this teachable moment to remind the class of the pain that can result from someone else’s poor choices due to their free will. I hoped and prayed that this moment would be one they would never forget and that his pain might flash before their eyes if they ever decide to get into car after drinking when they become adults.
LIFE LESSON: As much as we try to understand pain, especially in the life of a child, it often still does not make sense to our rational minds. We can try to justify that someone’s pain may serve as lesson to help prevent another’s pain in the future. We may be comforted when we think of images of our loved ones at peace in heaven, but that still does not remove the hurt that remains within the person experiencing the pain. It also does not stop us from questioning the purpose for the pain. Time may help heal our wounds, but the scars will always remain as long as we walk this earth. However, through our spiritual minds, God has helped us understand pain is NEVER wasted and offers us hope as believers. He always has a purpose for every hurt that comes into our lives and is with us through every trial if we choose to believe His Word…
“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.” 2 Corinthians 4: 8 -10