It began as another uneventful third-grade recess duty as a substitute teacher, watching children running and screaming, claiming at last their outdoor freedom after lunch.
Shortly, one youngster ran up to another adult recess monitor yelling that one of her classmates in my class was hitting her and fellow students. Recognizing the monitor’s towering size and his familiarity with the students, I knew he would calm the storm, and he did.
However, a few minutes later, the same girl returned, this time to me, frightened and anxiously claiming the same boy had a rock in his hand. I quickly spotted him, went to his side, and asked why he had the rock. With the rock clutched tightly in his hand, he struggled, from what I could see, with pent-up anger. As I gently took it from him, the bell rang ending recess.
Walking to our classroom, I asked him why he was so angry. “They all hate me!” he said.
I stopped him at the classroom door and said with heartfelt sincerity, “You know, when someone hates me, I try to love them. It’s not always easy, but it really makes a difference.” He listened quietly.
Word about the incident on the playground had already reached the college intern assisting in the classroom, who asked me to write a report of the incident. This gave me time to reflect on the events and pray.
Simultaneously, the intern called the class together for one of their “reconciliation circles.” She tenderly asked how they should treat their fellow students. They responded genuinely, “With kindness and respect.”
As they talked together, my thought turned to Christ Jesus’ words in the Bible: “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-45).
Jesus’ admonition to love instead of hate can seem to be a tall order to fill. I remembered my own struggle some years earlier to quell anger when I felt unfairly treated and released from a job.
I found peace studying the article “Love Your Enemies” in Mary Baker Eddy’s book “Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896.” The article asks: “Can you see an enemy, except you first formulate this enemy and then look upon the object of your own conception? What is it that harms you? Can height, or depth, or any other creature separate you from the Love that is omnipresent good, – that blesses infinitely one and all?” (p. 8).
The inspiration I gained from this truth healed my anger and allowed me to forgive and forget. It also helped me see during those classroom moments that since the enemy is an object formulated from our conception, then the true conception is that God is Love, always present, everywhere, governing and guiding everyone. As children of God, Love, there is no room for us to hate.
When the children returned to their desks, I noticed the warmth they showed to the boy. I left the class that afternoon feeling all is well.
Several days later I needed to be back at the school briefly. Unexpectedly, I met the teacher for whom I substituted. With a big smile, she said, “I want to thank you so much for what you did for my student.” I was unsure of what she was referring to, and so she reminded me of the playground events and of my help in resolving the situation. I was happy to receive her thanks, but uncertain that my contribution deserved her enthusiastic recognition.
Leaving the school through the administrative office, I began to understand the impact of that one, God-inspired classroom moment. A staff member stopped me and introduced herself as the mother of the boy at the center of the controversy. She too expressed deep gratitude. Her son had come home, told her of the events of that day, and said, “Mom, my hate is all gone.”
A year later, I asked her over the phone how her son was doing. She told me, “He’s had a good year.”
Not only has my own life been touched by knowing that I can’t be separated from the “Love that is omnipresent good,” I am grateful to have seen how this Love “blesses one and all.”