A Silver Lining
by Timothy W. Tron
“But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.”-Psalm 37:11
For all that we do, we should seek to share the light within, so that someday we may stand before our creator and answer to what we did with our purpose in life. Somedays there are never-ending, uphill battles. We find ourselves consumed by seeming floods of overwhelming tasks, lists that are never completed, or papers that didn’t get graded. And then one day, out of nowhere, there comes that still small voice with a heart of gold that speaks to you, melting away everything else that has gone on before until it is the barest of essence, the beauty of the truth before you. It is in that instance, you realize God had placed you where you need to be.
It had been the end of a long week. Exams had finally taken place after countless delays due to inclement weather. As my footsteps took me back to my classroom, my mind was still reflecting on the unexpected witnessing that had just transpired. It was another memory for another line of keepsakes to collect, to place upon that shelf of life’s precious moments we someday will take down and hold carefully in the palms of our hands, turning over and over, exploring all the grace it had to offer. Nearing my classroom door, I realized my students had yet to be released after having taken their final exam. They instantly saw me and began telling me how each of them felt they did on the test. We were all relieved to have it over. Before we could finish saying goodbye, the bell rang and the instinct to flee set in. Before I knew it, the room had been fully evacuated save for a few stragglers. We said brief goodbyes, as my focus was on their last assignment to be turned in, one that I had futility reminded them as they barged for the exits, “Don’t forget to turn in your Dragon Flippers.” Part of our final review was a project we called, Dragon Flippers. Each student was given a chance to earn extra credit points toward their grade by completing the flip-page style folder, where we had the theme of the dreaded Math Dragon as part of the cover. The rubric required the cover of the review packet to have the image of a dragon and the words, “Math 2”. The artwork alone was the largest part of the points of the rubric, allowing my more artistic students a chance to finally shine.
Staring down at the small pile, it was obvious many of them hadn’t taken advantage of the opportunity to add more points this semester. There had been that long delay between when we started the review, and many had told me they had literally lost their packet. Yet, the ones that were in my “Turn-in” box were encouraging. Picking them up, it was then I realized I was not alone. Looking up ever so slightly out of the corner of my eye I noticed one last student who had remained behind. My eyes, still looking down at the completed projects in my own hand, followed their image to another one, but in the young man’s hands who now stood next to me.
“Oh, hello,” I said to him, a little surprised at him still being here. He had been one of the bright students from my fourth block class. He often would lag behind the others, never in a hurry, always with a pleasant goodbye. He was one of those whom we always think of when we speak of the ones that can make your day. The hallway was now that empty calm that follows the evacuation of students from school.
“I hope you did well on the exam?”
“Yes, Mr. Tron,” his hands were nervously holding his Dragon Flipper, “me too.” He smiled, looking down at what he held. He then presented his project to me and continued. His demeanor did not depict a sense of joy. There was a troubling mood that seemed to be covering something he wanted to say but was unsure of how to say it out loud. Before I could ask if something were wrong he quietly said it a serious tone, “I wanted to write you a letter, but I didn’t get time.” He handed over the work. Before me was the image of a young man standing with his back to you, looking into a mirror on a dresser before him. In the reflection of the mirror was the picture of the dragon, cleverly drawn looking back at the boy. His artwork was exceptional. As I admired his skill, he continued.
“I wanted to tell you what this meant,” he said, nodding toward the piece of work now in my hands. “You see, you taught me a lot more than math in your class this semester. I learned about life and about myself.”
At that moment, the sounds outside my room diminished to nothing. The world around us seemed to stand still. My eyesight found his staring back at me. As I fought back the rising surge of emotion in my throat he continued, “I followed your writings outside of class and was inspired by all that you said. You helped me understand that I was living not like I should and that the dragon was me.”
Inside, my heart was pounding. I could hear the words he said, but it didn’t make sense. Before me stood the meekest, quietest student, I had ever taught. He worked hard and only spoke up in class when he had questions. His work was never late, and he nearly had an A before he took the final exam, so how could anyone so seemingly perfect on the outside struggle so within? It didn’t add up. At some point, I had handed the packet back to him to explain. He then opened the cover and began to show me how and why. There before me at the top of the page, my eyes instantly fell upon the Bible verse, “Ephesians 6:10-18
“Can this get any more precious,” were the thoughts that raced through my head?
“You see, the dragon was me, and I had to learn how to control the beast within.”
In complete awe, my eyes took in the beautiful artwork the young man had carefully created.
There drawn as the rubric had asked, were the various armaments described in the scripture passage of Ephesians, “The breastplate of righteousness, the helmet of salvation, the shield of faith, the sword of the Word (or Spirit as he had written), and the belt of truth.” To him, these were all the implements of war that he had used to rage against the demon within his own being. Through my tear-rimmed eyes, he shared with me the remainder of the project. There was little I could add, nor could say at the moment, so choked up was I with compassion for the young man. In many respects, he was me at his age; yet, he seemed so much more advanced and in control of his destiny than I had been. The questions still poured out of my head faster than I could grasp.
“I also wanted to tell you goodbye. I will not be returning to school next semester. My family will be leaving the area, so this will be the last time I see you.”
I was speechless. The dragon within, the scripture of Ephesians, he had been inspired beyond my classroom; it was all so much to take in. I could feel the hand of God upon us both at that moment.
“The meek surely shall inherit the earth, for peace is upon his soul,” came the words to my mind.
Through my choked voice, all I could squeak out was, “You’ll have to stay in touch, you’ll just have to stay in touch.”
He pulled his backpack closer around his shoulders, then reached out his hand. We shook goodbye, and he walked out the door of room 3212 for the last time. With him, my prayers followed.
My mind was numb with the grace of God.
In teaching, we yearn for those, too few, precious moments when it has all come to fruition; those tender scenes when we receive thanks in ways we had never imagined. Knowing that as with any position of servitude, we aren’t here for the monetary gains. With each day that passes, we seek to find that cloud with the silver lining in a world of ever-increasing clouds.
Somedays, we find that perfect cloud, and like those fleeing images above, for a moment we find God’s grace among us.
In all that we do, may we continue to give God thanks.
Thanks be to God.
“Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,