This beatiful boy. His heart is so big.
He recently came though a difficult time at school, where -despite being the sweetest child- he became the undeserved target of group-think bullying. Day after day he endured exclusion, teasing, and friend after former friend leaving his side because "there must be a reason everyone else is doing it" until, in the end, only one sweet girl was still calling him a friend.
The teacher allowed the others to ostracize him, to set future dates when they would "be friends again" and then allowed those dates to be pushed back weeks at a time. They constantly talked about him as if he wasn't there. They pretended they couldn't see or hear him. They would ask, "L? Who's L?" when passing out papers. They would throw his mat or math book back on the floor after they'd all been put away. All because one troubled child in the class was allowed to "express himself" and learn to "work through his issues". L never once fought, called names, whined, or paid back.
Finally, after the offending boy held him under the water in the pool during PE, I talked to his teacher. Before then, I had expressed concerns, but allowed her to deal with it her own way, knowing that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and that we all had trouble with friends from time to time, growing up. I didn't want to be a helicopter mom.
After the pool incident, I spoke freely. While everyone had strived to make school a safe place for the traumaed child (the bully), no one was protecting L. School was no longer a safe place for him emotionally or physically. I also talked to the boy, myself.
Happily, most of the class re-accepted him as a friend as soon as the teacher intervened. She apologized for not knowing how to deal with the situation, and praised L for his constant maturity and kindness throughout the situation.
She recounted how one day, during his free writing time, he had made a card for the whole class, with everyone's pictures and the words, "Even if you don't like me, I still love all of you, and I love Jesus the most."
I wish I could say those words came from me, but they didn't. Maybe from discussions in past, but not regarding the current situation. Every time he shared stories from school, I could barely contain my outrage. I never spoke against the bully, but prayed for patience with him, reminded him that he wasn't alone, and mostly talked to him about how to maintain his self respect.
I told him to NEVER again ask the other kids when they would be friends again, to hold up his head with dignity, and to find other people to play with until they came around. That's it.
He has this love for people who don't deserve it. He's such an example. Thankfully he endured that trial, made it through, and is surrounded by friends again. As he should be.
Then the other day he came home from school with tears in his eyes, telling me about a book he had read at the library. "It's called The Giving Tree, but it should be called The Loving Tree"! I cringed. (I once loved this story, too, but as I have grown and become jaded, it has lost it's shine.)
I told him that I didn't like the way the man in the story took everything from the tree without any regard for her feelings. The tree may be loving, but the man is so selfish that I don't like to read the book.
Far from conceding to my point, L looked at me like he didn't even know me. "Mom! She was HAPPY that he was happy." And I got it. He is the tree.
Shame on me. I have tried to change his selfless, loving nature into a jaded one like mine. He has a gift of genuine love for other people. That is a beautiful thing that I need to honor. Yes, it leaves him open to experiencing hurt at the hands of others. But the good that can come from it is vastly greater.
At five years old, he cares more about refugees, bomb victims, and starving children than most adults. I'm not saying that in smugness, as in I-taught-him-to-be-more-compassionate-than-you. He's much more compassionate than I am. He is compassionate in spite of what I am. His heart is a gift from God.