A gray sweater hung limply on Tommy's empty desk, a reminder of the dejected boy who had just followed his classmates from our third-grade room. Soon Tommy's parents, who had recently separated, would arrive for a conference on his failing schoolwork and disruptive behavior. Neither
parent knew that I had summoned the other.
Tommy, an only child, had always been happy, cooperative and an excellent student. How could I convince his father and mother that his recent failing grades represented a broken-hearted child's reaction to his adored parents' separation and pending divorce?
Tommy's mother entered and took one of the chairs I had placed near my desk. Soon the father arrived. Good! At least they were concerned enough to be prompt. A look of surprise and irritation passed between them, and then they pointedly ignored each other.
As I gave a detailed account of Tommy's behavior and schoolwork, I prayed for the right words to bring these two together, to help them see what they were doing to their son. But somehow the words wouldn't come. Perhaps if they saw one of his smudged, carelessly done papers.
I found a crumpled tear-stained sheet stuffed in the back of his desk, an English paper. Writing covered both sides -- not the assignment, but a single sentence scribbled over and over.
Silently I smoothed it out and gave it to Tommy's mother. She read it and then without a word handed it to her husband. He frowned. Then his face softened. He studied the scrawled words for what seemed an eternity.
At last he folded the paper carefully, placed it in his pocket, and reached for his wife's outstretched hand. She wiped the tears from her eyes and smiled up at him. My own eyes were brimming, but neither seemed to notice. He helped her with her coat and they left together.
In his own way God had given me the words to reunite that family. He had guided me to the sheet of yellow copy paper covered with the anguished outpouring of a small boy's troubled heart.
The words, "Dear Mom ... Dear Daddy ... I love you ... I love you ... I love you."