A somewhat unusual occurrence took place in my fourth-grade class. One of my students asked where I was born and after securing that information, he went on to ask a number of other questions about my family and me. That exchange resulted in my telling the class of my mom’s death when I was in high school and one young man advised that his mother had died when he was four.
Admittedly, this is an unusual situation and my only response was to look him in the eye and disclose that I was truly sorry. The lesson here is that many of us experience loss and we must remain sensitive to the fact that others are often recovering from losses of which we are unaware.
It’s true that most often, our young people are sad or upset about something that we consider minor. Sometimes it’s a pencil, sometimes an eraser or sometimes a poem or essay. But we are incapable of understanding exactly how a misplaced item may be affecting that child. If it was a pencil that Grandma gave Johnny for his birthday, the pencil has extraordinary value. If something was won from a contest in the school, it automatically has major significance.
We have all lost someone or something that represented a meaningful part of our lives. How long ago that loss occurred may or may not be significant. If you believe that time heals all wounds, you have a penchant for believing in cliché or you underestimate some of our pain.
All of this is to say that we must remain conscious of the fact that the world around us has likely experienced losses that are equal to or greater than or own. Measuring said events and their impact is meaningless particularly because we all experience, react to and recover from loss in different ways and by various calendars.
Maybe this fourth grader felt that he could trust me by imparting the fact that his mother had passed away. Or maybe he discloses that reality to many people. Regardless of the details, I will remain compassionate to his sadness and that of others around me. Shalom.