So I do not know if there are any other CCD teachers out there who also have to do “keeping our promises” ( which is a response to dealing with the issues of child abuse in the church), but I would love suggestions. A few weeks ago we were covering boundaries. I was shocked by the actions of my fourth graders.
“Why do we have to learn this?!”
“This is a girl problem!”
“This is stupid”
“Rape doesn’t happen around here” (Yes they said rape I was shocked they knew what this was however this student has older siblings)
I could go on with this list however this is not what I want to dwell on.
I ended up racking my brain for weeks trying to figure out what I was going to do to reach these kids. And with Sunday being that last day in the Year of Mercy, I finally was inspired by the holy spirit. I wrote them this letter:
(I probably went a little thick with the Catholic Guilt)
To My 4th Graders,
Today is the last day in the Year of Mercy. I know that you guys enjoyed learning about Mercy, we did fun projects and I really thought you guys grasped the concept. However when it came time to put mercy into real life situations, I noticed you guys did not grasp the concept. I want you guys to remember back to when we discussed boundaries with the third graders (we have to do the same keep our promises as the third graders and with it being such heavy subjects its nice to have a group of adults in the room). I want everyone to remember their behavior that day as I explain to you the following:
The definition of Mercy is: an act of compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone when it is in one’s power to harm.
I know that we do not like talking about “keeping our promises”. They are not fun topics but they are not jokes either. I head the class says things like “this is a girl problem” “it can’t happen to us” “boring”. Along with all of your moaning and groaning.
I want you all to know that the reason we have to discuss this uncomfortable topics is because it can happen to you. And if you guys are uneducated then you are unprotected. Abuse happens to 1-4 girls and 1-6 boys. With those odds that means at that abuse can happen to at least four people in this room right now. It also means that when you make jokes about it you are reinforcing the idea that abuse is not a big deal. When it is. Joking can make a person uncomfortable, and it can persuade them to keep quiet and not reach out for help.
It was an unmerciful act and unacceptable behavior. You guys are not in trouble I just want you to take this seriously. So today we will make up for our unmerciful behavior.
We are going to write cards with encouraging words for the children at our local child advocacy center. This center is less than a mile away from our church, because it happens to kids in our town everyday. It also can happen to you and we do have the power to make a difference with our small acts of mercy. It is easy for you guys to forget the luxury of having a stuffed animal to sleep with at night when you are afraid. I pray every night that none of you will ever be afraid like the children at the center. We will also be writing a thank you card for the women who work at the Carriage House (our church’s thrift store), who donated these stuffed animals to help you with your act of mercy.
I want you all to know that I love you guys and I would not trade any of you. I just want you to understand that this behavior is not okay and that the first step in making a difference is to change your thinking. I am going to read from Proverbs 3 to show you what the Bible says about your behavior.
After reading the note there was silence but once we got started the kids were really happy to help. One even teared up and when we ran out of our 25 stuffed animals they were upset that we had run out. “But Ms. Bella, that means only 25 kids get animals”, I had to reassure them that I would collect more animals. My 8th grade aids and my teacher aid we excited about this. It really did touch my heart.
But it gets better. You see that picture up top? The one of the small basket of stuffed animals. Well what I never expected was how much a small basket of toys could really mean. My friend is a social worker and she took me down to drop off the animals. When speaking to the other case worker at the center she got choked up, we all did. And when she told me that we could always bring more because those would be gone pretty quick my heart sank.
So we will continue to collect animals and to help these kids, I never expected this to be such a touching experience. My heart goes out to those children, and I pray for them every night. So my class and I will continue to collect animals as long as people continue to give them, because God has touch our hearts. I really did reach not only my students but adults and kids in need. I consider this a teaching win!