Quiet Girl Tells Her Teacher “You Ask Too Many Questions.”
Story by Connie L. Coppings
We moved to a small town where my husband was assigned as a minister to a local congregation. I was unpacking one day when the phone rang. A voice on the other end said, “Your name was given to me as a possibility for a mentor in our school.” Knowing very few people in town, I tried to imagine who might have volunteered me for this. Realizing the lady was waiting for an answer, I replied, “Let me think about it and call you back.”
I returned to my unpacking, but my mind was busy going over all the reasons I couldn’t be a mentor. I wasn’t even a parent, so how could I work with kids. I wouldn’t know what to do. I don’t really have the time. What if the child didn’t like me? My list of excuses (uh, I mean reasons) was growing by the minute and I did a pretty good job of talking myself out of it.
Suddenly a thought entered my mind. Connie, do you remember all the people that have taken time for you over the years? I knew this had come from God, certainly not from me, as I was too busy being selfish at the time.
Faces of family, friends, teachers, and coworkers crossed my mind and all that they’d sacrificed to help me. I was a shy child and God placed many loving, patient people along my life’s journey. He knew who I would need at various points to help me through that particular period of my life. Could I do any less for someone else?
I was still hesitant, but placed a call to the school and agreed to be a mentor. The lady in the office said, “I have a fourth grade girl who really needs some help. Just sign in at the school office and we ask that you come one hour each week.” The only other things I knew were her name, Sarah, and that she came from a poor home situation.
I was nervous as I arrived for our first mentoring session. I was shown to Sarah’s classroom and introduced to her. A room down the hall was available for us to meet in and off we went. I sensed this was going to be a “long” hour. Nothing prepared me for what happened that day.
Wanting to put Sarah at ease, I said, “Let me tell you a little about myself and then you can tell me about yourself.” So, I rattled off some facts and then waited for her to talk. Total silence greeted me. Her long hair hung across her face and she didn’t even look at me when I was talking. We sat in silence for a few minutes and it soon became obvious she wasn’t going to share any information about herself. I had to think of something quick.
Questions—wasn’t that how you got information from others? “Tell me about your family.” When that didn’t get any response, I tried, “What are your favorite subjects in school?” Then I ventured, “Do you have any favorite foods?” Nothing. Not even a faint shrug of her shoulders. All my fears that I would fail at this came rushing in at once. How could I help a child when she wouldn’t even speak to me?
Not knowing what else to do I said, “Why don’t we go back to you classroom?” She almost bolted from the room and was down the hall and back in her class before I could even say good-by to her. I prayed about this over the next week and decided to give it a little more time.
I went back over the next several weeks and the scene was repeated over and over. I asked questions; she sat in silence. Her teacher assured me Sarah was benefiting from these sessions, but I failed to see what good I was doing. Then one week, something different happened.
I had just asked Sarah another question when she looked at me and said, “You ask too many questions.” After I recovered from the shock of hearing her speak, I told her that one way to get me to stop asking questions was for her talk. From that time on, we began to make progress in our relationship.
Bit by bit, she began to share about herself. I want to be a beautician when I graduate from high school,” she would often tell me. Since most of her family never went beyond ninth or tenth grade, this was surprising to hear from her. We celebrated such things as improved grades and the fact that she was becoming more assertive in expressing herself. On the rare occasion when I’d see her parents, they would tell me that Sarah talked about me all the time. I was thrilled to watch her blossom and I hoped that one day we might even be able to talk about Christianity.
Sarah knew that I was a pastor’s wife, but I didn’t bring up matters of faith with her as I didn’t feel that was my role with her in that setting. As we grew more comfortable with each other, she would occasionally mention church, but nothing deeper.
Sarah surprised me one day by greeting me with, “Can I call you on the phone sometime?” I was pleased she felt that safe with me and agreed she could call once a week. When she did call, there would be a period of silence and then I’d hear, “Hi,” followed by more silence. After some discussion about how to have a telephone conversation, she began to be more at ease on the phone and would sometimes chat with me as if we were girlfriends. The staff at school couldn’t believe she was calling me and sharing herself so freely.
Sarah and I began our relationship when she was in the fourth grade and continued till she was in high school. We moved at that time, but I still got the occasional phone call from her to fill me in on what was happening. One day I received a very special call from Sarah.
In numerous phone calls Sarah had mentioned that she was going to a church near where she lived. I had encouraged her to keep doing so, but really hadn’t pushed her to make any kind of commitment. In one of her last phone calls to me she stated, “I went forward at church and accepted Christ last Sunday and was baptized.” What a joyous announcement that was to hear!
I haven’t heard from Sarah in quite some time, but she is always in my heart and my prayers. Sometimes I reflect on the fact that I almost didn’t take the time to be a mentor to Sarah, it grieves me to think that I thought there was no time in my life to help her.
I pray that Sarah’s life will continue to move in positive directions because of our relationship. She certainly blessed my life.
I hope you will consider giving of your time and talents to a child in need. Please let a child know that someone believes in them. I think of it as an investment in our future. Be a mentor!
I wonder where would I be today without the support of so many wonderful people. And, where would this child be if I hadn’t taken. . .
Time for Sarah.