THE GIFT OF A YEAR
s a teacher for 18 rambunctious and affectionate first-graders, I receive many gifts from my students. On average, I receive about six flowers every day: some boldly brought to me with big smiles; others quietly placed, crumpled, in my hand.
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Sometimes, I’m given little notes asking me to stay in Timor-Leste or to come to their home, or telling me of their love. My cupboard doors are covered in drawings of all sorts of things from monster trucks to animals to “teacher and me” to bright beehives swarming with bees. I have a drawer full of funny little gifts such as buttons, seeds, coral, leaves, paper snowflakes, pins, candle holders, shells, colorful pieces of paper, and candy. But of all the gifts from the children, one in particular stands out. One day at recess, my youngest girl came up to me, a massive smile spread across her face, and asked me to hold out my hand. “Something for Teecha,” she rasped out in her warm, little voice. I stretched out my hand, and she
placed something shiny in it. Her eyes looked keenly up into mine, waiting for my reaction. Looking into my hand at the special gift, I smiled down at her and thanked her for thinking of me. Her eyes glowed with pride as she gave me a big hug and skipped off to play. As I examined the gift, I laughed as I realized what she had so lovingly given me: the back of a dead cockroach. I can’t say that I kept it, but I can tell you that I felt all the love she meant to show me in her unknowingly nasty gift. I wasn’t looking at the piece of a cockroach; I was looking at those eyes, just longing to show her love to her teacher. That meant all the world to me. I dedicated this year to serving God as a teacher in Timor-Leste.