Chapter 8: Reaching Jacob

It was my first day of student teaching, and I was facing a room full of eager seventh graders (twelve to thirteen year olds).  Calling my first roll went well until right near the end.  “Jacob, Jacob,” there was no answer.  “He’s not here,” said one student.  “He’s really weird,” said another.  “I heard he tried killing himself,” said someone else.  There were several other comments about this young man that let me know he was “different.”  I had in my mind this image of a thirteen-year-old, rough looking kid with long hair and clothing not up to standard. 

A week went by before “Jacob” finally showed up in class.  To say I was surprised would be an understatement.  Instead of the “Jacob” I was expecting, sitting in his chair was a well dressed, well groomed, nice looking young man.  With the teasing going on, I realized this was indeed “Jacob.”  As class proceeded that day, Jacob didn’t say a word and just sat there staring straight ahead.  He practically didn’t move until the end of the class.  Some days he was a little animated as he came to class, but once class started, it was back to sitting and staring straight forward into space.  As a dedicated new student teacher, I vowed I would reach him--somehow.

A week or so later, I gave an assignment that needed to be done in class.  Jacob was sitting there as usual as I walked around the room giving help where needed.  I stopped at Jacob’s desk.  He was just staring straight ahead and not doing a thing.  “Jacob,” I said,  “Jacob, where are you?”  He slowly turned and looked at me.  “Not here,” was his reply.  “I know, Jacob, but you need to get this assignment done.  If you don’t finish it in class, I will have to come to your house to make sure it gets done.”  He picked up his pen, but still did nothing.  I now had a choice to make.  If I didn’t show up at his house, I would loose my credibility and fail this young man.  If I did show up, I might be considered interfering by his parents.  Being young, I took the chance, got his address from the school office, and headed to his home.  It was a several mile drive to his neighborhood of twisting and confusing streets, but I finally found it.  It was a large and beautiful home.  I walked nervously up to the front door and knocked.  His mother opened the door, and I said, “Hi, I’m Jacob’s teacher and . . .”  “Oh, yes, Jacob told me you might be coming.  Come in; I will get him.”  Startled, I walked in.  His mother told me that he had come home from school and told her that he thought he actually had a teacher who liked him.  I ended up spending an enjoyable couple of hours with Jacob and his family.  I was glad I had kept my word to him.   

I wish I could say this event changed Jacob’s life, and he became an A student, but I can’t.  Jacob still struggled with getting the work done in my classes, but he also knew I would do anything I could to help him.  He was a bright, intelligent, friendly young man--full of potential.  I don’t know where Jacob is now, but I hope that somewhere over the many years he has come to learn who he really is and just how great of a person he could become.

When I was a child we learned a song in Primary,  that all have grown to love, that speaks volumes of truth---I Am A Child Of God.  In those days the chorus was different, for we sang, “Teach me all that I must know.”  When I was a teen, the words were changed to “Teach me all that I must do.”  Perhaps it is time to make one more adjustment.

I am a child of God, and he has sent me here,
Has given me an earthly home with parents kind and dear.
Lead me, guide me, walk beside me, help me find the way.
Teach me all that I must know to live with him someday.

I am a child of God, and so my needs are great;
Help me to understand his words before it grows too late.
Lead me, guide me, walk beside me, help me find the way.
Teach me all that I must do to live with him someday.

I am a child of God, rich blessings are in store;
If I but learn to do his will, I’ll live with him once more.
Lead me, guide me, walk beside me, help me find the way.
Teach me all that I must be to live with him someday.

In a perfect world, children wouldn’t be teased or made fun of because they are different.  All would be esteemed and respected as children of a loving Heavenly Father.  Every home would be filled with love, peace, and harmony.  Everyone would be taught the gospel in its fullest and learn to express their natural love for the Savior.  Homes would be places of learning, prayer, and service.  Each child would have a friend that would reaffirm that they are worthwhile.  In this difficult and evil world that seeks to destroy the hope of a child, it is our responsibility, first in the home, and then in our friendships, to insulate these young people from the father of deception and lies.  

Let us follow the example of the Savior in loving and caring for our children.  It is recorded that “he did teach and minister unto the children” (3 Nephi 26:13) and that he “took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them” (3 Nephi 17:21).  “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:16).