I recently began teaching reading to third, fourth, and fifth graders during our afterschool program in addition to my junior high reading class. Today my third graders encountered the word "dread," so after I defined it, I asked them to use it in a sentence.
One student, lets call her "Shanee," raised her hand eagerly. Of course, she hadn't thought of a sentence yet but eventually blurted one out, saying that she dreaded the next time her mom was going to beat her. Shanee then pointed out a large bruise on her arm and told us that the police had taken a photo of it.
As you can imagine, this wasn't what I expected Shanee to say, and given that we only had about another minute or two of class, I wasn't sure what to do with what she shared with her four classmates and me. So I asked them if they wanted to pray for Shanee and her mom. Two of them nodded in the affirmative and asked if we could hold hands around the table. One of the girls volunteered to pray, asking that Shanee's mom would stop beating her and that her dad would quit doing drugs (this girl is her cousin and obviously has some insight). Shanee interrupted the prayer to remind her cousin that it was her mom that did all of the drugs.
And so "dread" takes on new meaning for me. It's no longer how I feel about sitting in Atlanta traffic, getting a shot, confronting someone, returning to work after a holiday, etc.
It's how a precious nine year old girl--a child who is wonderfully affectionate, full of spirit, often moody, has incredible rhythm, and managed to put together the cutest cheer for me on "stewardship" for a devotional for her classmates a few weeks ago--feels about what her own mother is going to do to her. She's not wondering what gift she might receive for her birthday or where her family might eat out this weekend. She's dreading when she'll be beaten next.
Needless to say, I will report this, and it won't be the first time our program has had to do so. And while I feel great sadness by what Shanee is enduring, I have managed to find some comfort (and pray that Shanee has too). First, I am so grateful that Shanee shared her dread with us. Second, her classmates desire to pray for her and her cousin's love and concern is encouraging; I so want Shanee to know how loved and perfect she is. And lastly, Shanee's wonderful spirit despite her hardships and pain reminds me that good can prevail over evil and that God can redeem anything--even those things we dread most.
p.s. I am grateful for the amazing opportunity I have to learn from children whose lives look so very different from mine.