Friday was a tough day.
I spent my first period conference period with one of my former students who was going through an incredibly tough time. Although I ended up having to totally renovate my lesson plans for the day (due to not having time to make copies and recover a lost Powerpoint), I am truly thankful that God put me in that hallway at the moment he walked by. I am also thankful for that emotion-meter that lives in my stomach that says, "Hey. Something's wrong...find out what."
I am not sure I will ever get used to seeing male students cry in front of me. True, it's hard to see the female students cry....but there's something about these young men, who are trying to be so tough, go into that hiccuping/sobbing cry right in front of you that is disconcerting, and yet humbling. You realize that they must really trust you to let down the guard like that. I'd had this student in my class for two years in a row....and we had talked about home and stuff a few times, but I had never seen him this upset. The longer we talked, the more my stomach told me that he was in danger.
In Res. Life, they teach you the basic suicide intervention skills. How to ask someone if they are thinking about hurting themselves...and how to take them seriously, no matter what. Most importantly, they teach you how to refer the person to a trained professional. This training came in incredibly handy on Friday.
After he made a comment that people would be better off if he were gone...I talked to him about how much I disagreed with that -- that I, for one, would be devastated if I got "that phone call". Then, I asked him if he could promise me that, if he left me, he would not do something to hurt himself.
He couldn't promise me that.
I brought him around to the idea of going to talk to his counselor. He didn't want to go, at first, but I told him that I wanted to make sure that he got as much help as he needed.
I told him about my student in the dorms who I had thought about checking on before leaving for a program, but decided not to. "I'll check on him when I get back."
...and how, when I got back, the police were waiting for me to let me know that he had climbed the water tower in town. Thankfully, they got him down unharmed....but I made a promise at that moment that I would always. always. listen to that feeling in my gut. Because I wasn't sure I could live with myself if I didn't.
And yes, it may have been a somewhat manipulative way to get him to go to his counselor....I cashed in on his respect for me, and the relationship we've developed over the past 2 years. Do I regret it? Do I feel shady for having done so? Not at all. Because, in the end, I did it BECAUSE of that relationship...and because I was terrified that if I let him out of my sight, I wouldn't see him again.
And I've been to the funeral of a student who committed suicide...was actually the one holding the door for the coroner as they wheeled the gurney out of the dorm....saw his roommate in the hours immediately following finding him...sat across from his mom as she talked about her son's plans to move back closer to home once school was out...
and those are images I will never get out of my head. Or my heart.
I am so incredibly thankful that God used me like that on Friday. I was able to be there at the precise moment that one of my kids needed someone to reach out to them....and wasn't blinded by my to-do list so that I walked by when I most needed to stop.
Before I walked him to his counselor, I gave him my cell phone number....and made him promise to call me if he got into a scary place. I told him that I don't give my number to very many kids....and told him that no matter what time it was, I expected him to call me if he needed me. He promised he would.
I haven't heard from him this weekend...