Thursdays are rather long days. Rather long days filled with class, lunch, more class, and then an afternoon spent in the Kindergarten and 1st grade class at a Chicago after-school program. 11 hours of filled. A long day, yes, but it starts with Learning Theories, then there’s Classroom Methods and Management, and then 2.5 hours devoted to learning about exceptional children and special education. And it’s hard not to enjoy a day that includes six hours of future teacher training. Days like Thursday get me ready to be a teacher.
So I like Thursdays.
And yesterday, the last class before backpack slung over my shoulder and running downstairs to head to after-school; in that last class, we talked about Autism. There was a presentation; three fellow students telling about Asperger’s and Rett Syndrome and children with many symptoms and few answers. They taught and explained and gave examples, and we learned what Autism means, a little bit.
Part of the lesson, we broke into small groups. Elementary education must be a lot of small group work, because we certainly spend plenty of time in small groups as we learn how to be teachers. So the girl next to me, the two of us spin our chairs around and drag them back to the table behind, and we form a small group. And the ones up front, the ones teaching today, they give us a paper. A real life story.
They give us directions; school always comes with directions. The paper’s a story, a real life account, of a family whose little boy, three years old, has autism. So one girl read, skimmed really, because they’ve already highlighted the important parts of this real life account. And they nominated me to take notes, and I craned my neck back around the people, to see the instructions written on the board. So I wrote the child’s name, his disorder, his facts, his story, on that little piece of paper shaped like a puzzle piece.
And then, the last step on the board, said pray. Pray because this is a real disorder and we held in our hands a real story of a real child and his real family, who really struggled when he didn’t respond to his name, didn’t look them in the eye, didn’t even want to walk. It was all real.
So we bowed our heads.
And in that classroom in the city, with apartment buildings and skyscrapers arrayed like a mural on the other side of the window, we prayed for that child. We prayed for his family, his development, his language. We prayed for patience and understanding, grace and energy, encouragement and joy. We closed our eyes and we were right there in that chilly classroom, but prayer binds hearts from a million miles away, that little boy might as well have been sitting with us.
Because prayer makes real even more so, and God listens, God hears, and hearts join together when it begins with Dear Lord.