I can't tell you exactly when it started but for years, my classes have written letters and made cards for people who are ill or grieving or maybe just lonely. We've made them for weddings and births and anniversaries. In recent years, I've tied them to tests. On every exam, we make a card. It isn't quite mandatory but I make it plain it's expected. Many folks are in need of encouragement so we try to fill that need. I always tell the kids that great artwork isn't necessary- I have not artistic DNA in my chromosomes- but color and effort are requirements. There is a small amount of extra credit which goes along with the cards but not substantial. It's amazing the feedback we get from the recipients of the cards or from their families. Today, I received a thank-you note from the wife of a man, former head of our school as a matter of fact, expressing gratitude for the wonderful nature of the messages from youngsters they do not know. Our kids don't realize the impact they make but I do. Well, maybe I have a little bit of a clue.
All this brings me to Aya. Some of my students do average work on the cards, most do good work, several do exemplary work..... and then there's Aya. She's from China and now a junior. As an 8th grader, her English was a work in progress and she said little. Now, her English is fluent and she is not afraid of expressing herself vocally. Her grades? We have grades broken down into four categories in Aya's Gospels class:
Tests Quizzes Memory Work Participation
Aya's grades in those areas?
100 100 100 100
I know you don't need a calculator to come up with her accumulative grade. But here is what's amazing. Aya spends hours- HOURS- making her cards. I've posted pictures of the latest two, minus her personal message. She is an excellent artist but so are some other students. If she never made a card, it would not change her grades. In fact, I've tried to discourage her as she comes in sleepy to third period from staying up so late doing homework, studying for tests, finishing projects, etc. She ignores me, to her credit. The joy she brings to those who need joy is immeasurable. Aya's creativity and personalization of each card is amazing. I sat with a sister in Christ last week in worship. Her husband suffered a terrible fall and we went into action. The lady, dear friends with my folks, could not get over the beauty of Aya's card, which featured a drawing of Jesus praying. I guess I'm just used to it by now.
What makes some folks go past the second mile and third mile when so many now are content to drop out after a few strides? If we knew, we could bottle it. Maybe Aya has an uncommon sense of compassion. Maybe her cards are a way of giving back for what she has been blessed with. In 2nd Corinthians 8, Paul praises the Macedonians for giving of their meager means, even past their ability to give. I like to think that's what Aya does in terms of the time she spends making her paper masterpieces. She doesn't do it to get noticed- she does it to comfort and even to love those who she most likely never meet. And make no mistake, she is appreciated........ by Josh, by Noah, by Harold, by Gayle and Grace, by Cindy, by Trinka, and by those who haven't even been blessed by her gift of consolation yet. I think Aya deserves a card of her own. But there aren't many who can live up to her standards.
Applicable quote of the day:
The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection.
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