Ethan* came to my small Adventist school in New York City as a Freshman. He stood out from the others because of his timid demeanor. In spite of his shyness, he would come into my office every morning to give me a hug and say good morning, and he would not leave school without giving me a hug goodbye. If I missed school one day, Ethan was there the next day to chastise me for my absence!
For three years this continued, without fail. During those years I got to know Ethan. I learned he had been living with his overbearing father since the age of 2 and had only seen his mom one time since then. Sadly, his mother had passed away when he was 13 and he never really knew her. More than once he asked me if I would adopt him and, although he said it as a joke, I could tell he meant it in his heart.
I was puzzled by his intense attachment to me until one morning in his Senior year. We were sitting together talking in my office. I asked him a few questions about his mom. He didn’t say much and I could see the hurt he tried to cover up with his fidgeting hands and weak smile. I asked him what his mother’s name was and he shyly looked up at me and with a nervousness in his eyes he told me her name was Carrie. I was overcome with emotion as I realized why he was so attached to me: his mother and I carry the same name! For the past three years I had embodied his mother for him. Those hugs each morning and afternoon were so much more significant than I could have imagined. I had no idea what a significant role I was playing!
If you research articles or information about school environment you will find plenty regarding student safety and health. These concerns are certainly important, but the one element that is often forgotten when considering a school environment is the emotional element. More and more we find students coming to our schools from homes that are lacking in love and emotional support. So many families are broken and struggling; they are not providing the comfort and safety youth need so desperately. For many students, school is their second home and for some it is their first home. They desperately need their school family to show them the love of God. The unique offering of an Adventist education should be a school environment filled with the incredible love of God.
*Name has been changed