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Previous Challenge Entry
Topic: Beginnings (05/31/04)

TITLE: Smile!
By gillian liversedge


The class of eight year old children that I have the privilege of teaching includes a real hotch potch of personalities. There are those who know they are loved and special. These children are secure, and able to take in their stride the few knocks that life has so far dealt them. Others are less secure, needing reassurance, perhaps when their family is having problems, and they are concerned about what might happen. A few live lives that are sad, chaotic, and miserable. These children are not at all secure, not knowing what sad thing might happen next.

One such girl, we’ll call her Helen, is particularly sad. Most days she comes to school with a sad tale of something that has happened to her, and my heart bleeds for her. A few weeks ago she came in looking like the weight of the world was on her shoulders. Not wanting to talk, she just sat in my classroom, the picture of misery. “Can you find a little smile this morning?” I asked her. She shook her head. What to do, I wondered, how could I help her?
“Look,” I said. I fished in my pocket. “In my pocket I keep a spare smile. Would you look after it for me?” As I spoke, I reached over to place the smile on her face. Sure enough, there it was, a big smile with a giggle. Throughout the day she often lost the smile, and the rest of the class joined me in helping her to look for it! Was it on the floor, or hiding inside her sock or her shoe? We could always find it- in fact, it usually made its way back to her face without help!

At home time, I asked Helen if she would continue to look after the smile for me. “Take it home,” I suggested, “and when you go to bed, put it under your pillow. In the morning, fish it out and put it on. You can begin tomorrow with a smile! If something sad happens at home, remember that you have my smile with you!”

Home she went, with my smile, and came with in it the next day. Yes, she had begun her day with a smile!

It occurred to me that the smile was in some ways like the Holy Spirit. My prayer for Helen was that the smile would help her through the day, that it would, like the Holy Spirit, come along side to help. I am so glad that I don’t have to look under my pillow for Him, or search on the floor when I think I have lost Him! Though I may have to look for Him, He is always there, by my side!

Member Comments
Member Date
Dian Moore06/07/04
Touching story. I used to be a school secretary and saw many children such as Helen. They do, indeed, carry the weight of the world. Thank you for praying for her.
L.M. Lee06/08/04
what a neat way to reach a child...some of us adults need to find our smile somedays!
Linda Germain 06/09/04
What a great tool. I used to give my son a kiss or hug to save for later. He would reach out his sweet little hand every morning before getting out of the van and I would place some stand-by affection in it. He would dutifully cram it down in his pocket. Helen is very blessed to have you in her corner. Children NEED these reminders.
Deborah Porter 06/09/04
What a lovely lady you are Gillian, and how blessed those children are to have you as their teacher. Just the fact that you refer to it as a privilege to teach the children shows me exactly where your heart is.

How inspired was it to think of having a spare smile in your pocket! That little girl will probably remember that for the rest of her life. Special teachers who make a special impact live long in children's memories.

I also thought you tied it in quite beautifully with the wonderful truth that we have the Holy Spirit alongside to help us through our days. Really lovely piece.

My only critique would be with the second paragraph. It needs to be broken up a bit. I'd start a new paragraph for "Can you find a litlte smile ...", another for "What to do...", Another for "Look....", and another for "As I spoke..."

Being paragraph obsessive, I'd also probably start another one for "Throughout the day ..."

By doing that, all those wonderful thoughts and inspired bits of teacher love will stand out and make the whole piece better to read.

But thank you so much for sharing this story with us and brightening my day. It is always a joy to see a teacher showing such love and care for those in her class. With love, Deb
Linda Miller06/10/04
Hi Gillian - what a super story. I enjoyed reading it. Makes my heart break to think of some of our young children needing to find smiles. You made me feel better knowing there are teachers who care. You are very special indeed! Keep writing.
Mary Elder-Criss06/10/04
What a blessing it is to have people like you involved in children's lives. Thank you so much for your dedication to them. I enjoyed your piece very much.
Gary Sims06/12/04
Gillian - Yes this is a beautiful story and I can see that how a smile can be like the Holy Spirit - but I would suggest that YOU were the Holy Spirit in this little girl's life. You recognized a situation, listened to God's inspiration, and acted in a way that helped change her life. The Smile was the result of the Holy Spirit's work through you.

One bit of critique on paragraph two. I agree with Deb that it needs a little work but I am not a proponent of too many paragraphs to make it interesting. Instead, I think you need to consider the first line of each paragraph as "mini hooks" that will create a thirst in your reader to read on. Just as the first sentence in an article needs to be powerful, the same holds true in each paragraph. The first sentence needs to be the strongest sentence. Many readers scan through articles looking for bits and pieces to catch their attention - without even knowing it the first sentence after a break is the natural place for their eyes to land.

Your first sentence in paragraph two: "One such girl, we’ll call her Helen, is particularly sad," almost lost me. I had to stop myself from the tendency to scan and get back into the article. Thank you for your article, but, most importantly, your sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. - Gary