Raheem's Gift -

This was written by one of my student teachers in her journal over ten years ago. It was an inspiration to me then, and I hope it will inspire you as well. As you prepare for the new school year, remember the difference you can make in just one child’s life this coming year.

Last night I painted a box for a gift for Raheem. Raheem was the only kid in kindergarten who did not have a backpack. I wanted to give him one without creating any animosity from his guardian. I didn’t want them to feel like it was charity so I gave it to him as a reward for perfect behavior. I painted a peaceful scene on the box; big happy sun, apple trees, mountains, lake, and sky. I glued cotton on the lake for a duck and in the sky for clouds.

Raheem is the little boy who never smiles but he always listens. At circle time I announced to the class that I was giving a gift to the one person who never got their name on the board, never had to be reminded to finish their work, and always followed directions. Most of them automatically pointed to Raheem. They already knew who the person was. He came and got his gift and started for the closet. He proudly hung his backpack up with the others and went to his seat.

After a while I caught Raheem staring at me. He had a look of total disbelief. I could almost hear his inner voice saying, “I can’t believe she noticed me.”

Every day I’ve been in this class I’ve noticed Raheem. He is so silent and reserved. He very rarely speaks, but when he does it’s in such a little mouse whisper that you have to literally put your ear to his mouth to hear him. At first I could not imagine what he must have been through in his short life to be so incredibly sad. Now I understand.

Raheem’s mother is addicted to crack. He stays with an aunt. I know he can’t possibly understand why she’s not here for him. My heart bleeds for him. I can’t even imagine having such a horrible fate.

Now I’m left wondering how I could possibly make this little boy understand the fact that his mother abandoned him has nothing to do with him. The reason she is incapable of giving him the love every child deserves from their mother is an illness; a drug addiction. I wonder if any length of time could ever heal his little broken heart. I doubt it. I’m sure he will always have emotional hang-us and scars. I can only hope he will recognize the reason and deal with his emotions constructively.

Teaching is a very empowering experience. At school I make a difference in children’s lives - hopefully one great enough to carry out of school and spread around a bit.

Raheem was unusually perky today.

5-3-96 Janet

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