Today was the last day of school for my kindergarten students. One child came up and said she had a gift for me, but forgot it. I told her she had already given me a wonderful gift. Then I thought of Ajayla…
There is a saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” Sometimes, teachers come in small packages…
“Open mine, open mine!” they shouted. The children sat on the floor in front of me - eyes wide, waiting for me to open the gifts they had brought their teacher. Most children in this very special group of first graders beamed with pride, but I had mixed emotions because some not able to share a gift might be hurt.
There were many gifts this last day of school. From a multicolored spray of wild flowers in a crystal vase to several teacher books.
Amid their excitement, giggles, applause, and me thanking the children, one of them anxiously called out.
“Ms. Ellington!” Ajayla said, eyes twinkling with her effervescent smile.
“I have a gift for you!”
“You do?” I asked.
“Yes, it’s in my backpack. Would you like me to get it for you?” she asked.
“Of course!” I nodded. Ajayla, for the young age of seven was an old soul, wise beyond her years. The children looked at each other curiously, some watching her every move as she enthusiastically raced to her backpack for the gift.
Ajayla returned with tightly cupped hands and a radiant look on her face. She stood before me, her back to the others. A few children leaned to see around her, and then all sat motionless – curious to see what the gift would be.
“Close your eyes and hold out your hands,” she whispered in my ear. I smiled as the colorful beads, perfectly placed in her braided hair tickled my cheek.
The children giggled. I closed my eyes and held out my hands. I waited.
“Can you feel it?” she asked.
I felt nothing. Eyes still closed, I moved my hands slightly forward straining to feel. I shook my head. “I don’t feel…” I began to say. Then suddenly, I felt the gentle brush of her warm fingertips resting on mine.
“Do you feel it now?” she whispered. A rush of emotion went through me.
“Yes, Ajayla, I feel it!” I said.
I opened my eyes and looked at her. She was glowing. Her fingers now clutching mine. “It’s a wonderful gift!” I exclaimed. Ajayla leapt forward and wrapped her arms around me. It was clear the other children understood. They broke into a round of applause.
“I’ll never forget you,” she said. “I’ll love you forever and wherever I go you
will always be here in my heart.”
I held her close. As I did, the others began to surround us, each reaching to be part of our embrace.
“Boys and girls,” I said, “Ajayla has given us all the greatest gift today. Giving and receiving gifts is wonderful, but the greatest gift you can ever give or receive is not one you can see or touch.” I paused to hold back my tears. “You can feel it though.”
The children smiled.
“Where?” I asked.
“In your heart.” was their reply.
Meanwhile these three remain:
faith, hope and love;
and the greatest of these is love.
Corinthians, 13; 4-7