My students are brilliant story tellers. Not because they know how to tell a good lie but because they don’t know how to tell a good lie. They simply tell the truth. The straightforward, blunt, here’s what happened-here’s what I saw-here’s what I think, truth. They don’t tell the truth out of some moral obligation or because their conscience will bother them if they lie. They tell the truth because it’s the only thing they know to do. They tell the truth because they aren’t threatened or afraid of what will happen to them by the school because what has happened to them at home is much worse. They tell the truth because the truth is all they have to their name.
I have told you about some of Felicia’s antics (Day 7—A Note on Felicia) as well as a little bit about her family background (Day 8—Spades and Hearts), but now I want to share with you Felicia’s stories. Two stories from back-to-back mornings.
Story 1: “So Mr. Morrow, there was this girl, right? She was bad, kind of like us. She got into a lot of trouble at school because she bullied people and stole from people and cursed out teachers and got into fights. Finally, she got kicked out of school and spent two months in jail. After she got out of jail, she got involved in drugs and became a prostitute. She got in pretty deep and owed her pimp a lot of money. Because she couldn’t pay it, it fell to her family. So they became poor because they were trying to pay off all of her debts, okay? Well one day she goes to church, and after hearing the preacher speak, she realizes that she needs to change things. The offering plate was being passed around, but she didn’t have any money. So when it came to her, she put it on the ground and stepped into the plate to offer herself to God because that’s all she had. She realized that she had to sacrifice her whole self in order to change. After she accepted Christ that day, she went home and started to make goals and journal about who she wanted to become as a person. Now, years later, she’s a lawyer.”
Felicia seemed to know too many details about this girl, so I asked her if she knew the girl personally. She responded, “Yes, I know her. She’s my cousin.”
Story 2: The next morning, Felicia walked into class looking exhausted. Before I had the chance to even tell her good morning, she looked at me and said, “Mr. Morrow, I’m just telling you, don’t ask me any questions or call on me to read today or try and get me to do anything else like that, okay?” I asked her why she was so tired, and here is the story that she told me:
“So, my dad was gone the whole evening at Carlos’s mom’s house. He came home around ten o’clock, but then he left again. Well, he came home drunk at four in the morning slamming doors and being loud and yelling about the cat in the house…but he was being stupid because we don’t even own a cat Mr. Morrow. Anyway, he woke us up to get ready for school and wanted me to get him some water, right? So I went to get him a glass, but ya know, I went ahead and snuck some Nyquil in there, and I put a little too much, if you know what I mean.” Then, her shoulders sank and her voice lowered. “And I know that you said that we need to love our parents, but ya know what? I wish my mom had picked a different man. He’s a terrible dad. I’m sorry, but he is. I really wish that I had a different father.”
Sometimes I wish that my students weren’t such good story tellers. If only the truth was a lie…