The other evening I had a few free minutes and so I plopped myself down, picked up the DVR remote, thanked God for DVR, and clicked on a recent crime show I had recorded.
You've seen these shows before. There is a murder, or a kidnapping, or some other horrific event, and the show starts at the crime scene with the officers arriving and getting the run down of the known facts.
This particular episode was no different. There was a postal vehicle abandoned in a New York City tunnel, and the driver had been missing for nearly 24 hours. One of the main detectives pulled up to the scene, threw her car in park, and then surveyed the damage. With a distant look in her eyes she began to cry, softly at first and then with greater intensity. She then saw one of her colleagues walking toward her car, swiftly wiped her eyes, and resumed her authority on the scene and it is business was usual.
As a viewer, I was made to believe that she saw something at the crime scene that caused her tears; something made her afraid, or sad. Possibly she knew the missing person? Possibly she was overwhelmed at the brutality her job forced her to endure time and again? But these questions were not answered throughout most the show. The crime was solved, and then finally-- finally -- you see our teary eyed detective at her desk and a flashback occurs. She is sitting in a doctor's office, finding out that she has the same heart condition that caused her uncle's death. There is a possibility her young son has it too. Just then her phone rings... a postal worker has been kidnapped. She rushes off and the aforementioned scene plays out.
She was not crying about the job. She was not crying about what was before her at all. She was crying because she had just received some very devastating news, yet no one ever knew this.
After the show was over I turned off the TV and sat for a moment thinking about what had just unfolded before me. I knew these were all fictional characters, however this story was too real.
I began thinking about what people go through every day that most of us don't know about. And then my thoughts were turned to my students. Throughout the course of the day I have 108 students that walk into my classroom, take a seat in their desks, and are supposed to think about Language Arts. 108 different stories. Who knows what they have just experienced? Maybe there is a student in my first hour who just got in a fight with his dad on the way to school. Maybe there is a student who just learned the truth about a family member's addiction. Maybe there is a student who was just made fun of for 20 minutes straight while trying to eat her chicken patty at lunch. 108 different lives.
It makes me realize that I need to reach out with compassion instead of instant anger at the kid who puts his head down to sleep everyday. Maybe this is the only safe and quiet environment he has in which to rest his eyes. Maybe I need to be more understanding that she didn't turn in her assignment--again. Maybe she was busy being the mother-figure for her 4 younger siblings while her single-mother worked the night shift. Maybe he was by his grandma's bedside last night while she took her last breath. Maybe she was just in the bathroom crying because her best friend told her she was fat. Maybe he just failed a math test and is officially kicked off the basketball team and knows his father will be waiting for him when he gets home.
I just don't know. I need more patience. I need more understanding. I need more compassion. I need more Jesus-love.
What was a simple crime show turned into an important reminder for me. This classroom, with its hand-me-down desks and stained white boards, is where God has put me for the time being. And here is where He will teach me, "whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."