It wasn’t the first time that I had seen scars from where people had cut themselves. It was, however, the first time that I had seen cuts so fresh that the dried blood was barely a day old…
Gabriella typically walks into class already mouthing off about why she doesn’t want to be at school or about drama that happened in the gym before the bell rang or about how she ain’t “finna” eat the breakfast because school meals are disgusting. Today, she walked into the classroom quiet and reserved, wearing a sweatshirt that stretched to her fingertips. She skipped her morning complaint routine, and instead, quickly huddled up with Felicia, the two whispering back and forth as if something really mattered.
Once class started, Gabriella became withdrawn, refused to comply with simple requests like reading a passage or answering a question, and constantly looked like she was on the verge of crying. I stopped the lesson and called her out on it. She and Felicia exchanged looks, their eyes and head nods sending inaudible messages—Go ahead and tell him—No, hush, I don’t want to do that—Yes, you really need to—No, just forget it—Gabriella, do it—(sigh). Gabriella asked to talk to me in the hallway, so we walked out of the room.
I asked what she wanted to talk about. She replied, “This.” She pulled up her sleeve to reveal 25-30 red slash marks roughly two and a half inches long. They started on the inside of her wrist and cut-by-cut climbed all the way to her elbow. She pulled her sleeve back down and crossed her arms. She told me that she didn’t really know why but that she mainly did it when she was mad at herself—a sort of punishment in a way. Sometimes it was because of boys that said the wrong thing to her; sometimes it was because of arguments she got in with her parents; sometimes it was because of thoughts running through her head or decisions that she had regretted. But she just didn’t really know why.
My initial thoughts were numb, caught off guard at the abruptness of what she had just showed and confessed to me. I knew there were protocols to follow: questions to ask, details to sort through, counselors to notify, parents to meet with; there needed to be conversations with Gabriella, from peer pressure to verbal abuse to coping with emotions to the root of the problem to how to love yourself. All were things that needed to be discussed.
But in that moment, the only thing that mattered to me was that Gabriella knew that she mattered.
I told her those words exactly, that she mattered and that she was important (A tear welled in the corner of her eye). I told her that I believe that we are all born on purpose and for a purpose and that she was here for a reason. I told her that God could have taken her, but instead, he allowed her to wake up this morning, and for that simple fact, it meant that there were things that she still needed to accomplish on this earth (The tear spilled down her cheek). I told her that Jesus was crazy in love with her and that that love was all that she would ever need. I told her that if she ever wondered if anyone would miss her, or would care if she was gone, or would cry over her, then she didn’t need to wonder anymore because I would (She started crying). I gave her a hug and told her that everything was going to be alright.
Public school or not, some matters of the heart, some matters of faith, are too important to be left unsaid.