Remember the Absent

Core scripture: “Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.” (Hebrews 13:3)

Message: It seems to happen every May.  There are always students of mine who let the stresses of the end of the year get the best of them.  My heart aches for these kids.  They mess up.  They get disciplined by the administration.  They end up in In School Suspension (ISS) or Out of School Suspension (OSS).  Sadly, many are forgotten.

Recently, I have really been trying to make efforts to reach out to these kids.  Their names for obvious reasons shall remain anonymous, but I hope their stories inspire you to do the same.  You never know what a small gesture of kindness can mean to a kid.  At the very least, it will show you cared enough to reach out.  That imprint is how they will remember you.

One of my students missed an entire week of school for fighting.  He had just started showing potential for me, too!  I emailed his mom to find out what he might like for a treat.  She replied with a double cheeseburger from McDonald’s and Gatorade.  I swung by his house that next afternoon, McDonalds bag in hand, and gave him a high five to encourage him.  He opened the door with his good buddy at his side, and they eagerly split the cheeseburger together.

Another student made a silly mistake that landed her in ISS.  I felt awful for her situation because she missed the exciting ending of a book we had been reading.  I took her a copy of the book along with her favorite Stitch stuffed animal from my room to boost her spirits.  It meant the world to her!  The next morning, I found a heartfelt thank you note from her in my mailbox—one that I plan on keeping forever in my scrapbook. 

As I was crouching next to another kid’s desk last week, a thought-provoking question came to my mind.  She was being stubborn, not wanting to work, and my patience was on its last leg.    

“Where do you see yourself in ten years?” I asked her.

She thought for a second and said, “Jail.”

My heart sank.  This sweet girl came from such a rough home.  Her grandmother was raising her because her mom was incarcerated.  There was very little stability, and just a few days before another teacher had said the exact same thing about her being in jail in ten years. 

“You know, you don’t have to follow that path,” I reassured her. 

We were in the middle of writing down facts about Marilyn Monroe’s life.  She was doing a research report over a celebrity from the 1960’s, and the facts were startling.  Marilyn Monroe had died at 36 years old.  Drug overdose.  Her whole life ahead of her. 

“Look at me,” I pleaded with her.  “That doesn’t have to be you.”

Her head dropped.  I whispered her name, tears beginning to well in my eyes. 

“That doesn’t have to be you.”

She softened and flashed her patented smile at me.  “Thanks, Mr. Daniels.”

“You’re welcome.”

Minutes remained.  Her thought process skipped to the next beat.  “I’m hungry!  You got any food I could have?” 

“Umm … I have a few pieces of candy,” I laughed. 

“Can I have some?”

“Sure thing,” I said walking her over to my desk. 

She opted for a sucker.  I would have gone with the leftover chocolate Easter egg, but to each his own, right?  The wrapper crinkled in her hand as she opened it, and the bell rang, signaling the end of class.

“Bye, Mr. Daniels!” she called. 

The class flooded out the door.  Nothing but stillness and quiet remained.  I dropped my head and prayed right then and there for her well-being.  She must have gotten something from our interactions that day because she appeared later in the day between classes to say hi.

And to get some more candy.

When you take time to remember these kids, they see it.  Encourage them.  Empathize with them.  Let them know they can learn from their mistakes, and allow them to experience God’s grace.  After all, nobody is perfect.

Challenge: If you have any students who are being disciplined through detentions, ISS, or OSS, remind them that they can bounce back and that you forgive them for their behavior.  When they experience forgiveness, they will be more likely to forgive others.  Talk about a life lesson worth living out!

Clint speaks: I had the honor and privilege of speaking at Oregon Trail Middle School’s FCA on Tuesday morning.  We videoed the presentation since their huddle coach, my good friend Phil Kuchar, was not able to attend due to a meeting.  My topic was “Sharing Your Story.”  Check out the video here:

Scripture study: Read Matthew 25:31-46 and journal or discuss the following questions …

  1. When would be a real life situation where you could live this scripture out?
  2. Have you ever neglected someone in need?
  3. How can we have our eyes opened to help these people?

Prayer points: Lift up the following areas to the Lord …

  • Praise God for His loving grace and forgiveness that covers all sin!
  • Pray that you can lovingly reach out to the lost when they make poor choices.
  • Pray that these students will better understand God’s forgiveness through our actions.

Suggestions: What is on your heart?  Is there any topic you would appreciate a Christlike perspective about?  Feel free to email me anytime at, and I will prayerfully consider your topic for my blog.

Just for fun: I forgot to shave one night last week.  It inspired me to grow my goatee.  Now my students are split on whether they like it or hate it.  I am going to have them vote tomorrow if I should keep it or shave it.  What do you think?  Tune in next week for the exciting results! 

Prayer: Father, help our students make wise choices the last few weeks of school.  When they falter, remind us to reach out to them in love and model forgiveness.  Amen.

Categories: Uncategorized

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