Core scripture: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (Colossians 3: 12).
Message: The e-mail was waiting for me about a month ago when I sat down with my iPad early in the morning. It was short but sweet. A mere two to three sentences tops. The content, however, was a cry for help. One of my 5th hour students—we will call her Angel to keep her anonymous—informed me that her pet hamster Blaize had died that morning. As small as that may seem to others, it meant everything to her. Angel LOVES animals. She volunteers at a pet shop, she sends me pictures and videos of her pets all the time, and she was requesting that I pay tribute to Blaize that day by putting his picture on the bottom of my bell work screen.
Sure enough, upon finishing my supervision duty, there was Angel at my door, hugging her binder, red eyes flooded with tears of sadness.
“Will you do it, Mr. D.? Will you put Blaize’s picture on your bell work today?” she whimpered.
She somehow knew I had already seen her e-mail. My heart ached for her.
“Of course I will,” I responded gently. “Hey, 1st hour starts in a few minutes. Do you need someone to talk to real quick? I can write you a pass.”
“I’d like that,” she smiled forcefully at me.
We sat down in my room and chatted for five or six minutes. Just enough to get her feeling better. I even fired up my computer and showed her how I was going to insert Blaize’s memorial picture at the bottom of my screen. The tribute off to the side read, “RIP Blaize!” She readily approved and was ready to bounce off to her 1st hour class when I stopped her.
“Hey, I’ll be praying for you,” I said tenderly.
My comment made her smile. She stopped in her tracks. She even ducked her head a bit and waited. I quickly realized she was waiting for me to pray for her right there! So I did. I prayed for peace and comfort for her, and she happily bounced off to 1st hour in a LOT better shape than when she arrived.
Things got tough when Angel’s step sister arrived 2nd hour. Upon seeing the picture, she broke down to sobs and slumped in her chair. I walked over to her feeling a little choked up myself.
“Are you okay, hun?” I asked gently.
She nodded yes, but even more tears flooded her cheeks. Of course the other kids saw, and a couple of her friends came over to give her a hug. And of course the kids who were not in the know who saw my screen kept asking, “Who the heck is Blaize?”
I had to defend the poor kid, so with just the right amount of irritation in my tone, I said, “Blaize is Angel’s hamster, and he died this morning, so let’s just try to be a little sensitive here.”
Now, I’ve never given a eulogy for a hamster before, but I gave one that day. Five times to be exact. During my tribute, I quoted a line from Semisonic’s song “Closing Time” by saying, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” The new beginning was coming for Angel that weekend when she told me she was going hamster shopping. Blaize’s replacement was soon to come! And when I got to the most touching part of that homage to Blaize, I let a few of my own tears slide down my cheeks. I just couldn’t help it. When my students hurt, I hurt. When they rejoice, I rejoice.
Angel arrived in the middle of the day to see the tribute to Blaize on my screen again. Though her eyes watered up again, a content smile was on her face as I paid tribute to the hamster I had never actually seen in person (or would you say seen in … hamster???) but who I had seen in about five home videos from Angel’s iPad. As I memorialized Blaize, I couldn’t help but remember that Saved by the Bell episode where they had a funeral for A.C. Slater’s pet lizard. Did it feel a bit weird? Yeah, maybe, but do you know what? It felt right.
Through this story, I am reminded of the compassion that Christ showed daily. He touched the untouchable. He loved the unloveable. He sat down and ate with tax collectors. He forgave the woman at the well. He readily admitted He didn’t come to help those who were already on board. “For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost” (Luke 19: 10). Christ emptied Himself with compassion and love to save those who were going wayward. That same type of compassion should be in each and every one of our hearts!
As if the eulogy wasn’t enough, I followed it with a handwritten note to Angel and mailed it to her later that day. After encouraging her with words of tenderness on the front, I took a slight risk and included a short scripture on the back side. James 1: 2-4 states, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” She needed to hear that. I prayed that she would take it the right way, and do you know what? She did.
This story has a happy ending. Angel got her new hamster that next week. She received the note gladly, and her performance in my class was at its peak. Assignments that might have been missed or forgotten were being turned in. Her grade skyrocketed to heights she had never seen before. Finally, the biggest blessing came when mom got ahold of that note I sent her. She e-mailed me immediately. Here is what she said:
“I just wanted to thank you for the sincere letter you sent my daughter. That was so thoughtful of you. It is so refreshing to have people that are not afraid to profess their faith and spread the good word. I wish all our teachers were as brave, caring, and genuine as you. You are making a tremendous impact on each little life you touch, I hope you know that. God is using you in so many ways, always more than you know. Keep fighting the good fight!! I know we are far and few between these days. Thank you for loving both my daughters with God’s heart and eyes. I hope that our other three kiddos have the privilege of having you as their teacher at IT.”
Mom and I shot a few e-mails back and forth that afternoon. After hearing that she obviously respected the Lord, I inquired if her daughters had ever heard of Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Mom enthusiastically replied that she didn’t even know our building offered the program. That next morning all three of her daughters were there, and they have been there every week since. All because of a little compassion and love shown to her daughters.
Which of your students need a little compassion this week? Be that compassion to them! Love like Christ loved. Not for your own glory but for the glory of God. Send those students home filled with the love of Christ. All in a Blaize of glory!
Challenge: Think of a student who you think needs a little compassion. Maybe they are not getting it at home. Maybe they are struggling with outside circumstances beyond your control. Whoever that child is, make it your goal to show them compassion this week.
Song to bring it home: Check out Brandon Heath’s “Give Me Your Eyes” for a little inspiration to see others the way Christ sees us.
Prayer: Lord, let me be compassionate the way your Son was toward humanity. May my heart spill out with love toward all of my students. Amen.