Story of the Day

"So Little Meant So Much"

My plan was to slip out of the conference before the keynote speech to avoid rushing to the airport.  The wind-up luncheon featured Sandra McBrayer, the 1994 National Teacher.  I can't remember why I remained seated while she took her place at the podium, but I will never forget the story she told.
     
Sandra discarded her prepared speech and talked straight from her heart.  She told us about a bright, enthusiastic young man she had taught in high school.  He was constantly frightened and was the target of repeated severe beatings when several students learned he was gay.  One day after school he went home, where he lived with his father, and told him what was happening at school.  His father, mortified with his son's sexuality, replied with a beating even more brutal than any he had received at school and worse than the others he had previously received from his father.  At that point, he felt that the street was the only safe place left for him.  Life there gave him his next dose of brutality as he was forced to earn sustenance money as a young prostitute.
     
One late night, after an especially abusive encounter, the young man's spirit was finally broken, and he felt he could not go on.  He remembered one person who had showed him kindness.  He reached out to his former teacher, Sandra McBrayer.  She told him to stay by the pay phone and she would be there as soon as she could.  Within twenty minutes she found a slumped, quivering, bone-thin figure waiting for her, his hollow eyes swollen, but still holding a glimmer of trust and a trace of the smile she used to see there.  She told him to get in her car but wondered where she would take this young man.  He had nowhere to sleep.  Tonight, she knew that in order to survive, he needed much more than a homeless shelter could offer him.  Going against "the rules," she decided to take him to her own house to give him warmth, something to eat, and mostly, some hope.
     
Sandra sat the frail, shaking young man in her kitchen and made soup.  After hours of talking together, he seemed to calm down somewhat.  He looked shyly at Sandra and surprised her with a request a bath.  Sandra got the bath ready, even adding bubbles, and then went back into the kitchen to clean up, wondering if perhaps she had overstepped her bounds as a teacher.  Sure she had, she decided, yet she would do the same thing all over again, if necessary.
     
Suddenly, she heard sobbing that seemed to come from the depths of the young man's soul.  When he came back into the kitchen a little later, Sandra gently asked him why he had been crying in the bathroom.  The young man looked at her and said, "I'm sorry you heard me.  I couldn't help it.  I was so happy I couldn't stop crying.  It was a dream I've had since I was a little boy.  This was the first bath I ever had.  I've always wanted to sit in a bathtub with bubbles."
     
I drove to the airport inspired to never give up encouraging other teachers.  We may be the only people to ever have a positive influence on a child's life.