I could tell something was wrong the moment I saw her face. Tears streaked her cheeks. There was an uncomfortable silence with the three or four girls that sat around her. Lucky for her there was still 15 minutes before school started. My classroom was her safe place to get away from the chaos that was swallowing her. I gently probed to find out what had happened. As it turned out, someone had stuffed a handful of nasty notes in her locker. She held the notes in her hand, her hand shaking as she gave them to me. My eyes reddened as I flipped through each one.
You’re a bitch.
You should just die.
I hate you.
There were probably five or six of them, each one scribbled on a separate sheet of notebook paper. The grammar was hideous. Whoever wrote it had used “your” instead of “you’re” and the verbs sounded like Tarzan language. To lighten the mood, I remarked about it.
“Well, whoever wrote this is stupid because they don’t know the correct version of you’re!”
The tactic worked as all the girls laughed—we had just covered that grammar rule in class—but the mood quickly shifted back to serious. Her friends took over from there.
“They’re just jealous of you!”
“Someone probably put it in the wrong locker.”
“They don’t know the real you.”
Love began to take over. I finished up with some positive reinforcement of my own, letting her know that she was an amazing person. It was the truth! She was the type of kid you’d think wouldn’t have an enemy in the world. Always smiling. Always positive. Always soaking in the glories of life. It broke my heart to see her pain. Even as class began and she settled into her seat, you could tell she was still aching inside. The lesson was immediately an escape to get her mind off the agony.
I made sure the counselor had a chance to pick up the pieces later that day, but the counselor made a visit to our team plan meeting about four days later. Another note had been dropped in this poor girl’s locker. The counselor had even moved her locker! But this troubled tormentor had somehow found the new locker and dropped another A bomb through the vents. The poor girl didn’t even want to come to school now, and I had been oblivious to it all.
As I made my way out of the building that day, I ran across my student. She was waiting for her mom to pick her up outside the front of the building. I told her I knew about the note. Her face tried to smile as her eyes reddened. Although I tried reassuring her over and over that she was special, my words of consolation could not take away her pain. Hate was fighting back. And you could see in her eyes that she truly believed hate would prevail. I prayed for her on my car ride home. I don’t know what it was, but something told me that God had this one.
Fast forward a few days later. I sat at my computer before school, hacking out an e-mail, when she gallivanted into my classroom. All the tears, all the pain, all the chaos that was once crippling her was gone. She wore the brightest smile you’d ever seen, and she reflected her mood in her attire through a vibrant yellow dress and some two-inch heels. I stopped typing.
“Well, you’re sure bright and cheery today!” I began.
She beamed at me, “You’ll never believe what happened!”
I smiled at this remarkable turnaround. “What’s up?”
“I found more notes in my locker yesterday!”
Confused, my face contorted slightly, prompting her to explain.
“It was my friends, Mr. D. They all wrote me notes of encouragement!”
And so ended the story. For now at least. I couldn’t help but think about how the Martin Luther King essay theme of “Love Illuminates Life” was being played out. I had promoted the contest to my students for about two weeks. Some had asked me what they should write about. If they only knew this story. If they only knew what would prevail in the end, as 1 Corinthians 13: 13 states, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
(If you have a student who is struggling with bullying, I highly recommend Brit Nicole’s song “Gold.” Check it out below!)