As Long as There are Tears, There is Hope

Can there be any hope for children engrossed in such a culture as ours? Yes. This is why.

(photo: Thorsten Frenzel/Pixabay/CC0)

I taught for five years in an urban high school in New Jersey, and one year I was given the oh-so-enviable duty of in-school-suspension (ISS) duty. Each day, during a particular period, I sat in the ISS room with the students who had been confined to that space. Most of the time, the students just sat quietly at their desks. Some took naps. Some worked on the assignments that were brought to them from their teachers. Only once did a fight break out. I spent my time there either getting my own school work done or talking to some of the students.

One day a student of my own was in there. I knew he was there from the attendance report, so I was expecting to see him. I greeted him, and he replied, “Yo, Mr. D.” We talked about the classwork he was missing that day, what he had done to get ISS, and some other things. He happened to be wearing a sleeveless shirt, and I noticed a tattoo on the inside part of his upper arms. Students are always happy to show off their tattoos and talk about them. I asked to see it, and it was an image of a pair of footprints in the palms of two hands cupped together. I asked what it meant, and I will never forget what he said.

He told me that he had gotten his girlfriend pregnant, but her parents did not want her to have the baby. He didn’t want her to have an abortion, but she ended up obeying her parents. In his tattoo, the hands were the hands of God, and the footprints were those of his unborn child.

This story broke my heart and at the same time gave me hope and some admiration for my student. He had a lot going wrong in his life. Here he was sitting in ISS in a tough urban school. He was obviously having premarital sex with his girlfriend. I don’t know what other harmful things he was involved in outside of school. But he still recognized something about the beauty and duty of fatherhood and the value of his unborn child. Even in the midst of a broken and gritty existence, an ember of goodness and truth still burned bright in this child’s soul.

I sometimes wonder about the state of our civilization and where we will end up. An attack on the nature and meaning of the family can never be a good thing. Our whole society seems to be constantly swept up in the propaganda and slogans that bombard it every day. Can there be any hope for children engrossed in such a culture? Yes. This memory of my student explaining the meaning of his tattoo makes me remember that the radiance of God’s Being that sustains the core of each person’s existence cannot be utterly extinguished, and we never know where those rays will shine through. Sometimes, it is in the darkest places that the light shines brightest.

Bruce Clark and Mary Kay Clark

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