Christmas is my favorite time of year. It is a time to spend with friends and family, to eat good food and most of all to bless the children and families of Club Christ. Every year, we plan a Christmas party and invite the families to come eat, laugh and enjoy the program we have prepared for them. At the end of the party,we give the students presents and get to watch them tear through the colored paper and smile from ear to ear.
Normally, everything goes as planned and the staff of Club Christ is incredibly blessed by the joy shared with our kids and their families. This year, however, was a bit different.
As a teacher, you are told that you are not supposed to have favorite students, and that you are to treat every kid equally. In my experience, I have found that this principal never holds true, every teacher has a favorite, or a few favorites.
My favorite is Tenonte. He is a fourth grader, skinny, popular, funny and he is also a twin. I never get the two of them mixed up though, that is because I know the characteristics of each boy. I have spent time with them and I can tell them a part instantly. Teonte is a leader, but unfortunately he typically leads others in the wrong direction. Him and I have had many talks about this. He is aware of this bad behavior and says he hates what he does. It is comical to me that I gravitate to favoring the “bad kids,” but for some reason I always do. For in them I see much pain that could be easily healed with love and I desire desperately for them to choose Jesus. When they do, they will be unstoppable.
This Christmas I had a powerful moment with Teonte. One that I think of almost daily. Many of the kids came early this year to the Christmas party. I allowed them to stay in the center and play games since is was so cold outside. They were all being goofy and hyper since they were so excited about performing and getting their Christmas presents. There were eight students sitting in the reading room when I noticed Teonte and another boy arguing. The boy stood up and challenged Teonte, naturally, he got up and got in the boy’s face. What happened in the next few moments seemed like and eternity, but happened in a split second.
The boy was angry and pushed Tenonte causing him to fall back and hit his head on the couch. This made Teonte furious and retaliated by throwing his entire body toward this kid and hitting him in the face. Instantly the boy had Teonte pinned into the couch and was violently and repeatedly hitting him in the face.
I was frozen, I did not know what to do. The other students had swarmed the two boys and instead of doing anything to help, were standing by and watching. I wanted desperately to jump in and tear the boys apart, but being pregnant I felt so helpless. Here I was, watching my boy being hit in the face and there was nothing I could do about it. I called out for the other adults in the room to help, they rushed in and separated the two boys.
Instantly, the boy who started the fight took off and and Teonte went after him. I grabbed him arm to stop him as he sobbed in front of the rest of the kids. Bright red blood was dripping from his little nose and he was struggling to get away from me. He kept crying and saying over and over he was going to kill the kid that hit him. One of the older girls, Keanna, was doing her best to console him and kept reminding him that it was Christmas and to let his anger go. But Teonte kept fighting us. He cried out angrily that he did not care that it was Christmas, that he did not deserve anything, that he was a bad kid and we should leave him.
Those words pierced my heart. I stunned me to hear what he believed about himself. It hurt me that he wanted me to give up on him. He felt unworthy of gifts and deeper than that, he felt unworthy of love. How could that be? He is too young to be so jaded.
This cleaver little boy unzipped the jacket he was wearing and pulled his arm out and ran with all his might. He left me tearful and holding his oversized jacket. My husband and our good friend Ben went after the boy to make sure nothing more happened.