Making Heavy Hearts Glad

Miss M, my teaching assistant, disappeared after lunch yesterday. She is conscientious and thoughtful and superb with the kids, so I was puzzled and disappointed by her apparent irresponsibility. She could have at least let me know that she’d be gone for the rest of the day.

My disappointment turned into smoldering resentment as the afternoon progressed and the 6th-graders became more and more surly and unruly. It was obvious that they, too, missed Miss M—but they are not articulate, so they acted out.

It wasn’t until after the students had been escorted to the buses that I learned that Miss M had rushed home at lunchtime after someone had spotted her dog in distress and called her to come quickly.

She was too late. By the time she got home, her beloved pet was dead.

Today Miss M was back in my classroom, a shadow of her usual exuberant self. She was red-eyed and sniffling, but the same children who were surly and unruly yesterday were gentle and solicitous today.

“What happened to your dog?” one student asked.

“We left him on the deck and he decided to jump,” said Miss M, “but his leash was too short and he broke his neck.”

“Was he a good dog?”

“He was a very good dog,” Miss M said, “a very, very good dog.” Her voice faltered as she wiped away tears.

Several of the children told Miss M how they had lost beloved pets to various tragedies.

As they spoke, an ancient proverb seemed to spring to life: “Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: but a good word maketh it glad” (Proverbs 12:25, KJV).

By sharing their stories of loss and grief—which are, mysteriously, “good words”— healing began, both for the children and for Miss M.

The hearts of children of poverty, the children with whom I work, stoop with heaviness. Unimaginable things, unspeakable things, happen in their homes and to their families every day.

That’s why it’s so essential for me to be lavish in giving out good words. I want to be a teacher who makes heavy hearts glad.

Posted on October 5, 2010, in bereavement, kindness, listening, relationships, teaching. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. This brought tears to my eyes.

  2. How awful about the dog. I’m glad the heavy hearts were made glad in the end. That’s a wonderful proverb.

  3. You are a good person. And I know you felt small when you learned why she was gone. I find that humbling when that happens to me – and personally I need the humbling sometimes. But, remember – you are a good person.

    I feel for your friend. I still miss the dog and cat who died in August. I hope her heart finds healing.

  4. Tears here too. How sad to lose a beloved pet in such a way. Your students surely were able to feel her pain…you too.

  5. My friend, I thank you for sharing this story with us. I don’t often see anything of this nature here as you usually write poetic verse. I have always known you are a feeling and caring human being and I send the best positive energy your way for healing of all concerned.
    Mitakwe Oyasin


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