More than twenty years ago, when I first got into the therapy business, I would sit with my clipboard and my intake forms and listen as people described their chaotic, painful, poisonous childhood experiences. Detail after detail would pour out about abuse of all kinds and neglect and betrayal and everything that should never happen to a child and I would dutifully write it all down.
I remember one session, though, when I just put down my pen and turned my clipboard over and asked, "So how did you turn out so well?" This young woman was well-functioning, strong in her faith, loving to her own husband and children, hopeful about life and I just had to know how that had happened. Here's what she said to me: "I had a teacher who loved me." I was immediately concerned: "But if you told the teacher what was happening, she should have reported it." "No, no," she said. "I couldn't tell anyone. I didn't know how and I was afraid of what else what happen if I did. But I always believed that if I could tell anyone, I could tell her and I knew she would believe me and I knew she would still care about me, even if she knew."
One reason I can share that story is that I have heard stories exactly like it at least a hundred times since then. I still ask that question on a regular basis and I always get the same answer. The answer isn't always a teacher. Just as often, it's a grandparent with a lot of love or a neighbor who took some extra time or a coach who believed in more than athletic talent. And just as often, I discover that, like the teacher, the other person has no real idea about the impact they had in this child's life. They saw themselves as doing their job, maybe living their faith, doing what came naturally and they have no idea that a child was watching and thinking, "Maybe I'm not so worthless after all. Maybe I can have a different life. Maybe it's not me."
Today, I was having a philosophical conversation with a young mom and asked her, "So where do you think God was when all this was happening?" She answered, "God was my second grade teacher." I believe she was right.
"Whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me." ~Jesus