A music teacher at California Community College tells the story of a young man named Edward. On the first day of class he came in and sat in the back row. He slumped into his chair and lowered his head. As weeks progressed and tests were given, Edward did not do well. He turned in homework way below his ability level and never participated in the class discussions.
To my knowledge, he had no friends at school. Sometimes, during lunch, I would see him sitting on the grass by himself. On occasion, I would join him on the grass and see if I could start up a conversation. Edward rarely talked to me or to anyone. He would nod his head up and down or side to side for a yes, or a no. Nevertheless, I continued to take an interest in Edward in hopes that he would open up to me.
Edward missed too many classes and when he did come, he appeared to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. However, one morning, as class was ending and students filed out, Edward shot me a quick glance and I swear that I saw the beginnings of a smile appear. The more positive interest I showed in Edward, the better his grades became. As he took his final exam, I said a prayer for him.
When the day finally came to hand out final grades, I met with each student individually, but Edward did not show up. Where was he? Should I wait longer? I looked down at his papers, worried, because I had not yet decided what grade to give him.
As I was preparing to leave, I heard footsteps and looked up to find Edward. He looked terrible. His eyes were sunk with dark black circles under them and the hollows of his cheeks were drawn. His swollen lips were cracked with dried blood in the creases. His skin was pale and his hair matted. He was wearing the same clothes he had worn for the last few weeks.
“I know that I'm getting a low grade on my final. I realize that I haven't been participating in class and that I am an embarrassment to others. I'm a lazy, selfish, stupid and an ugly no-good-for-anything person. I have no place on this earth and what’s more, no one can ever love a person like me. I am a hopeless case with absolutely no future”.
I could not believe my ears. I wanted to interrupt him, to convince him that he was none of these things. Instead – I let him talk. When he had finished, I faced him, looked directly into his very sad eyes and said, “Edward, your final grade is an A”. His reaction was one of total and complete surprise. “You are giving me an A? Me? Why would you give me an A when I did such a poor job in class, on my assignments, and on my final exam. Why would you do that?”
My answer to Edward was this. “You may appear to be a D student, but you are an A person. I believe in you now and I will always believe in you. I am here for you now and I will always be here for you. Never, ever forget that. Now, go and create the life you dream of. Believe in yourself. I will be watching. And by the way Edward - I love you”
In all my years of teaching, I have never graded a student this way.
Later that evening, as I prepared to go to sleep, I received a call. The man said, “I am a priest from Edwards’ Church and I have something to tell you. I want to thank you on be-half of Edward’s family and myself for saving his life today.”
The Priest went on to explain to me that Edward has an older brother who has always been angry and jealous of him and has belittled and verbally abused Edward most of his life. Edward thought of his brother as his hero and wanted desperately to please him. I am not sure what role the parents played but I get the impression they were wrapped up in their business and had little if any, time for the boys.
I learned that the day Edward came to meet with me, regarding his final grade, he had left a note on his pillow. It read: “I am sorry that I could not be the kind of son and brother you all wanted me to be. All I ever wanted was to be loved. I am sorry for being unlovable. I will go now…you will find me in the closet. I am sorry for any inconvenience I have caused you. Please have my body cremated. My small savings is in the top right-hand drawer of the dresser. “ An empty noose was found in his closet.
Edward wrote that note prior to meeting with me. He had never heard the words I spoke to him before and it gave him a glimmer of hope. This was all he needed.
Choosing to use words that give hope...
*Story excerpted from https://letterpile.com/inspirational/The-Power-of-Words-An-Amazing-Story