I probably have lice. I might have gotten it today … or yesterday. Or any number of days ago, because I did exactly what she told me not to do: I hugged the kid.
Being an elementary school teacher is TOUGH. I bring papers home to grade, grade during my plan, plan during my lunch and do recess duty in a skirt in the middle of winter. On top of that, I take tickets from kids who talk in the hall (which hurts me more than it hurts them), and hug kids who often have lice. That last one is where it gets me, though.
I was a day late into the news and found out today that a teenage boy committed suicide yesterday not too far from here. I cried all the way home from work. I wonder if he was the kid no one really wanted to hug in elementary school? I’m not judging anyone, because trust me, I cringe at the thought of getting lice. It’s a BIG deal. Cleaning everything in the house, not sitting on the couch for days, spending fanatical amounts of money to get rid of them … I get it. But are all those reasons combined good enough to reject a kid who needs a hug? Because this little girl is one of the hardest to deal with on the regular, and needs a hug every day, and I’m responsible for that!
I feel it internally. I can’t not hug a kid. I open my arms to that little girl daily and pray that all the love of Christ in me reaches her. I high five kids who’ve just picked their noses. It’s gross. I’m well aware of it, as my insides recoil sometimes, but I still high five, genuine smile and all, and do the thing because what if someone needs it?
I wonder what that teenage boy needed that he didn’t get from anyone? What kind of rejection did he have to endure to finally decide to take his own life? What kind of insignificant thing did people put up as a barrier to human interaction, and rob that boy? Not just rob him of interaction, but of joy. Purpose. Love. Life.
Seriously, we need to stop. Lice is VERY inconvenient, but it isn’t permanent. Stink is unwelcome, but it isn’t irreversible. Whatever other excuse we come up with, none of them are worth the risk of losing another student to suicide. Smile. A lot. Hug, every time they reach out with open arms. Forget about all the reasons you don’t really want to touch a kid and DO IT (appropriately). Kids need to know someone cares, and sometimes, they do not get that kind of encouragement at home. Be that someone. BE THAT SOMEONE! For God’s sake, people, be that someone.
Jesus was that someone. He said, “Suffer not the little children to come unto me” (Matt. 19:14). He let them interrupt him, touch him, hug him. Whatever they came to him needing, he gave, and he rebuked his disciples for not letting them come. I can’t imagine he didn’t lift them to God in prayer. He was exactly what they needed. He still is. Exactly what they need. And they will come to Jesus by coming to us. Let’s not turn them away.