Last night I was wrapping up my kids' gifts to their teachers. We are so blessed by all of them. There is no gift we could possibly give that could express our gratitude for the role they play in our children's lives. They love, pray, console, laugh, and teach them daily. My heart is full when thinking of each teacher.
One thing that especially has my heart is both homeroom teachers began their careers in public schools. They have seen some of the little guys defeated, not loved, unwanted, not cared for, and beaten. They spent time loving on those kids. I'm sure in the same manner in which they love on mine.
It really makes me think of my short seven years of teaching. All the little gratitude gifts I received from parents. I remember almost all of them. I have some of the best coffee mugs that make me think of individual kids. I have lots of ornaments reminding me of the little hands that spent time creating priceless treasures just for me. And then I have junk.
Let me rephrase that. Junk to some. Heartfelt sacrifice to me.
I taught at a fairly low-income school. A good mixture of income levels, but a large population of kiddos on free or reduced lunches. In my sixth year, I had a wonderful class. Amazing kids with hearts of gold. It was this year one of my poorest students walked in with two little balls of aluminum foil. It was easy to tell something was inside, but I couldn't see what. I instantly thought it was her lunch, but found it odd because she had told me earlier in the year she would never bring her lunch because she ate for free everyday at school. Sometimes her only meals were breakfast and lunch provided by the school. Even if we sent home food in her backpack, she didn't eat it. She gave it to her younger brothers.
I was so excited that she brought her lunch. She had always wanted to do that, and that day was her day...or so I thought. As I watched her unload her things, she left the two little crumbled aluminum foil balls on her desk. Then she proceeded to bring them to me. She laid them on my desk, and just smiled at me.
I still remember her little face as I asked her, "Whatcha got in those cute little balls?"
No sooner did the question leave my lips did I realize...they were two gifts. Gifts for me. She wrapped her arms around me so tightly. When she finally let go, I opened her gifts. Inside were two individually wrapped trinkets probably purchased from a little quarter machine years ago. They were worn and weathered, but I could tell they meant so much to her. I was fighting back the tears.
Then she pushed back a bit, motioned for me to come closer and whispered, "Mrs. Torres, these are my most favorite toys I play with and I want you to have them. Thank you for loving me like my Mommy did."
That. Was. It. Full on bawling. All the other kids crowded around to see what was going on. They really couldn't understand why I was so happy to receive gifts such as those. I hope years down the road they think back on that moment of what giving really means. Giving with sacrifice.
I don't ever think I could possibly give a more meaningful gift in my life to someone else than what I received that day. A time when a little nine year old girl gave it all. Gave what was most important to her to see me happy. That's a lot to swallow.
I'm not quite sure what triggered this memory, but I am so thankful it did. What a example of sacrificial giving! Tis the season!