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Saturday, December 12, 2009


J. Grant Swank, Jr.

It did not take long to discover Nick. He was in my face before I had a chance to set my books down. He was in my face before I had a chance to check over the day's lesson plans. He was in my face before I had a chance to check out the attendance chart and note the milk and hot lunch tally.

In other words, Nick would not go away. (To think this was the first week of the new school year.)

Such was vintage Nick. What I got was what he gave everybody every day of his life.

Then I looked over to the classroom assistant who rolled her eyes back into her head, exhaustingly nodding toward me as her body language underlined, "That's Nick. He's quite a handful. That's why they've got me here!" But what was special between her and me was that we were both Christians. Therefore, we committed ourselves to pray more earnestly for the students under our care, particularly Nick.

So it went at Maine’s Lakes Region elementary school.

"Nick, I will get to you in a minute. Just have a seat. I have to check out some other matters first," I explained, pointing for him to take his seat. Of course Nick darted toward his chair, only to jump from it in a few seconds. Again, in my face. Nick ruled the world.

However, as the morning moved along, I realized that Nick was handing me some complicated scientific reading. He also provided his own assessments of this advanced material.

Then while others were still sauntering through their spelling lists, Nick had his completed and was back in my face. Or he was meandering around the room, poking for a book in this corner or that. Sometimes he simply got in the way of others.

Nick was not dumb nor a throwaway child. Nick was not always responsible for his behavior. So the confused bundle called "Nick" continued to dominate much of the school day—every day.

I learned that Nick had been tossed from foster home to foster home. Then finally he was told that he was to be adopted; however, something came up. No adoption.
I determined to know Nick better. Again, he was in my face. But instead of telling him that I had to check on the milk list or attendance chart, I asked, "What have you been reading lately?"

Nick darted to his desk, grabbed a hardback on planetary configurations, then thrust it into my hands. "Here," he smiled broadly. "I love this book. Maybe you will, too."

"Maybe I will. Give me some time to look it over."

"Will you read some of chapter seven to the class this morning?"

"Perhaps." So the day progressed. Not as before, but this time much better.

"Nick, you know something I have discovered about you?" I said to him at lunchtime.


"You are very intelligent and creative. I have been noting your artwork. You also have unique ideas to contribute to the class."

He looked at me with a blank face. Could he believe this? Or was this just more

From then on I noted that Nick was not so much in my face, not punching others.

He was beginning to blend in. "You are a very, very special person, Nick," I said.

As the day was almost over, Nick asked me, "Could you write my dad a note?" I presumed "dad"" was foster father or whoever the man was overseeing Nick.

"What would you like me to tell your father?" I asked.

"Could you tell him what you told me? Could you tell him that I'm not all that dumb?" With that, I wrote out a letter to the adult caring for Nick.

I had a feeling that at mealtime that evening, just a smidgen more comfort might have crept into Nick's head and heart. I know that a smidgen more contentment crept into my own heart while driving home that day.

"Thank you, Lord, for hearing a teacher's prayer."