My View

A Student Asks, ‘Can You Help Me?’
By MARLENE M. JOHNSON/School Administrator, May 2019

I WAS REFLECTING recently on some events in my life of leadership in education where I felt I really made a difference or the event made a difference in my life. I was reminded of one situation that accomplished both outcomes. It was something that stemmed from my role leading a children’s story in church, which I often did on Sunday mornings.

I was an elementary school principal at the time. School was in session, while a blizzard had started outside. It was time to go home. I often went down to the kindergarten hallway to help zip and buckle winter coats, tie laces on shoes and boots and basically ensure all students were dressed to go home. With a snowstorm going on, I wanted the “littles” to be prepared.

Then I heard, “Can you help me?” from a small voice. “Of course I can,” I responded.

The little kindergarten then said, “You tell us stories about Jesus, don’t you?” “At church I do. When the children come up for story time,” I replied. Then the young student said, “Can you pray with me?”

Now that was a request for help I wasn’t expecting. I knew we weren’t supposed to pray at school, yet I wouldn’t be forcing anyone to pray and the child did ask me. How could I say no?

“Sure,” I responded, taking his little hands and bending down to be his size right there in the hallway among all the children. “What do you want to pray about?” I asked.

“I want to pray that I get home safe. I’m scared.” So the prayer request was completed. He said the prayer while I held his hands and listened.

Difference Maker
As I headed back to my office, a couple of teachers stopped me. “You could get in trouble for that.” I shook my head. “No, I don’t think so.”

In my office, I was thinking about that little boy and his request for help. I put my coat on and walked back to the hallway where I left the student. He was standing by the school door. “May I walk you home?” I asked.

He smiled a big grin, grabbed my hand and we began the journey to his home several blocks away. It felt good to walk him home. His mother was so glad I brought him home. She had a houseful of children and could not leave them for a pickup at school. I smiled and said I was glad to help.

The next day, I heard a quiet tap, tap, tap on my office door. I turned around to see the small boy standing there. I smiled and said, “Hi Honey! How are you today?” He ran over to me to deliver a big hug, saying, “I’m so happy.” He gave me a note in his mother’s handwriting but in his voice that said, “You were the answer to my prayer!”

I was a bit surprised to read that. “What do you mean?” I asked.

“I prayed to God to help me get home and be safe. You came back to help me. You walked me home. You were God’s answer to my prayer.”

I didn’t have words to respond. Only a hug. He then ran off to have a great learning day. I had a great day too. 

MARLENE JOHNSON is superintendent of the Le Sueur-Henderson Public Schools in Le Sueur, Minn. This column is adapted from the author’s blog Small Towns...Giant Opportunities...District of Choice.