In between our major snow storms in Atlanta we received two new students. A girl named BLESSING and a junior boy who was quite negative. Not just negative, I’m talking muttering profanities under his breath non stop, spewing out “This is stupid. Christians are stupid. Jews are stupid…” during meditation, during mantras and in poses. He didn’t dress out and often put on his ear phones and hung out in corners encouraging others to join him and disregard us.
He smirked. He frowned. He rolled his eyes.
He was definitely the most disrespectful student I have had in my over 30 years of teaching. I wanted him removed from our class. Queen 2, my teaching partner was affected as well. Our PE Teacher who mentors under us completely understood and was equally disturbed by how his energy affected the class. Some of the students confided in us that he made them really nervous.
I was scared. Scared that our students who we’ve had for over six weeks every day for ninety minutes would return to old, negative patterns. They would start to hang out in corners and not practice. I was scared that he would make me cry in front of the class. I was scared that I had no idea what I was doing.
My negative mind was loud and clear. It was taking over. I didn’t want to get stuck in that place where we just don’t want to get burned. It’s not worth it. He’s not worth it.
I totally felt justified getting him removed from our class. 95% of me wanted him gone. But there was this tiny 5% that wanted him to stay. This small glimmer of the light nudging me to take the risk. The light of trust. The light of love and compassion.
So last Friday the administration was notified of our decision to transfer him into another class. 95% of me felt so relieved.
I told my three teenage daughters. They were shocked. “That’s not what you stand for mom. That’s not what you taught us. Don’t Dismiss him. He obviously really needs yoga.”
They were right. I’ve never dismissed someone. Once you are in my heart you are in there forever.
There was that 5% of light. That remembering. The voices of my most meaningful yoga teachers in my head:
John Friend’: “Open To Grace. Look for the Good. Give people the benefit of the doubt.”
Ross Rayburn: “Teach to the most cynical person in the room.”
Desiree Rumbaugh: “Draw out the bright and shining light from within every student, no matter what. Love is more powerful than fear.”
Queen 2 and I went to work on eradicating our fears with breathing, mudras, mantras, meditations and yoga. We worked all weekend. We questioned our decision. We contemplated. She inspired me to be more open.
Monday. We received more new students. One of them is a girl named GRACE. Well, our dismissed student took to her. He dressed out on Tuesday. He practiced on his mat and didn’t hover in the corner. He partnered with her. He smiled.
Same thing happened Wednesday.
I thought maybe it’s just the way the planets are aligned. If this continues today, it will be real. He’s meant to stay. That 5% glimmer of hope and trust and light could prevail.
And it did. He even helped me assist another student. He even laughed. Such a blessing to have this child to learn from. To remember it’s not about changing him. It’s not about seeing only the shadow sides of people, EVEN if they insist on showing it to us.
It’s about doing the work ourselves. Filling up so we can pour. So we can receive. So we can learn.
He still muttered profanities while answering a question. But I paused and held space…and then he responded in a more dignified manner.
I will continue to hold space for this young man. He deserves it. He’s worth it.
And that to me is a BLESSING and GRACE.