Person


“That’s not the person I was talking about.”

It was the greatest experience of my teaching life.

I taught for over forty years in the poorest public schools in and around Indianapolis. My students came from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds. I taught math.

The most important aspect of education is relationship. Trust is the essence of that relationship. If a student knows they can trust you then math teaching – any teaching – becomes a delight.

She came to me after class wanting to talk.

We found some time during school to meet. A demure young woman, she hesitated divulging her true need.

I asked some mundane questions to draw her out but I already knew.

“Are you pregnant?” The word momentarily hung in the air.

“Yes.” She hung her head.

“What will you do?” I asked.

“I already have an appointment,” came the matter-of-fact reply.

Her decision, it seemed, had been made. I wordlessly waited for further explanation.

“A relative is driving me to Louisville on Monday. I can’t have the procedure here in Indiana because I’m too far along.”

It was Friday afternoon.

72 hours from now a young woman was going to make a life altering decision.

Any time a student had come to discuss anything with me in the past I always asked questions. I wanted them to consider their situation, their obligations, and their potential response.

Imposing my views did not build trust.

 “Have you considered the other person in your decision?” I began.

“The father doesn’t want me to have it. He won’t help if I do.”

“That’s not the person I was talking about.”

She was startled, looking up at me after I uttered those words.

She knew.

“You have talked about how this decision will impact your life. What about the life of the baby inside you? Your future will be very different depending on the choice you make on Monday.”

I spoke about the life she was carrying and the potential that life could have in the world. I asked her if she had the right to take the life of another. I told her that I believed only God had the right to terminate a life because only He could restore that life.

I repeated, “The other person in your decision is the person of the child in your womb.”

We talked for some time that Friday afternoon focused on the life of another.

Monday morning found me on the front steps of the high school where I taught. It was my normal practice to greet students as they came in to school each day.

I was shocked to see her.

“I thought you were going to Louisville today!”

Her smile radiated joy.

“I changed my mind.”

I was stunned.

“It was our talk on Friday,” she could tell by the look on my face I needed help understanding.

“Thank you Mr. Wilson,” was all she said, passing me on the stairs.

The dean of women, however, was not thankful.

“Don’t you know how you’ve destroyed her life??!!” she began her tirade.

The young woman’s presence in school on Monday had surprised the dean too. After a brief conversation with the pregnant girl, the school administrator called me out of class.

The dean’s tone was vicious, berating me for my interference.

For ten minutes I stood in her office enduring the verbal assault.

I said nothing.

The year was 1994.

In May of 2017, I saw Facebook pictures of a college graduate posted by a glowing, proud mother.

A young woman’s decision one Monday had given her a thousand Mondays with her baby.

This story stands as the greatest experience of my educational life.

 

Dennis L. Wilson told me this story over coffee. Wiping away the tears I asked if I could retell the story for our audience at Warp & Woof. Dr. Mark Eckel is President of The Comenius Institute (website), spends time with Christian young people in public university (1 minute video), hosts a weekly radio program with diverse groups of guests (1 minute video), and teaches weekly at his church (video). Picture credit: snappygoat.com

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The Comenius Institute is a Christian educational institute that will engage in the teaching-learning craft. In doing so, the organization will encourage study, discussion, research, and collaboration of students and scholars in the pursuit of theological truth with academic excellence. The Institute may present relevant materials for discussion through lecturers, guest speakers, authors, resident scholars, and students. It may facilitate the learning process through small group dynamics, mentoring relationships, and open forum discussion. It is the hope of Comenius to provide a place for learners to engage in spiritual-intellectual growth in an environment that encourages study, reflection, curiosity, discourse and collaboration through the in-depth pursuit of wisdom.

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