When the teacher who had changed their lives had fallen seriously ill, three children skipped school to stay by her side to watch over her. Until one day, their principal showed up at the hospital unannounced.
Jack, Dustin, and April were three 16-year-old kids you thought you would never see together.
“Ms. Crane?” Jack and Dustin held the hands of the woman who lay asleep in the hospital bed. The boys looked at each other’s tearful eyes and then looked at April, who stood by the woman’s head, stroking her silver hair and calling her name.
“Ms. Crane, you are getting better,” April whispered.
“That’s right, Ms. Crane. You’re going to be up and active in no time. We still have to finish the Robert Frost poem, remember?” Dustin gripped the woman’s hand tighter.
“Yeah, and nobody else can teach us like you do…” Jack tried to hold back but burst into quiet tears.
The three classmates sat around the woman who meant the world to them, remembering how she changed their lives in the past year.
For four months after his mother got sick and his father was between jobs, Dustin had been bringing a cold mayonnaise sandwich to school for lunch every day.
Everybody in the class had seen it, and most kids had found a way to mock Dustin for it. But only Ms. Crane had cared enough to ask him about it.
And when she found out what had happened, Ms. Crane would pack a nutritious extra lunch for the boy every day, without ever waiting for a thank you.
April was another quiet girl in class, a straight-A student who never smiled. When she suddenly froze and flunked a paper at the mid-terms last year, she thought her life was over. Ms. Crane was the first to point out that April was prone to panic attacks and helped her get started on therapy.
And Jack? He was the goon of the class. He would either steal other children’s belongings or would bully them into giving him every new pen, pencil, or notebook their parents had bought them.
He was the loudest mocking voice in class that nobody wanted to talk to. It was only Ms. Crane who saw through his roughness and talked to him like he was an intelligent kid. When she realized he had an absent father who didn’t buy him any stationery or books, Ms. Crane bought him an entire kit of school supplies to last him through the year.
That’s why these kids had been at the hospital since the moment Ms. Crane was admitted there after she suddenly fainted in class the previous day. That, and the fact that Ms. Crane had no one to call family.
The children didn’t speak much to each other, but they were together in not leaving their favorite teacher’s side for a second.
It was way past their dinner time, and all they had eaten was a sandwich and a muffin split into three.
“Kids, don’t you have to go home?” the kind nurse asked. She had been observing them all day and had seen them sleep on the uncomfortable plastic chairs in the cafeteria last night.
“Nah, we’re staying here. Close to Ms. Crane,” Jack said, while Dustin and April nodded in agreement.
“And your parents?”
“They know we’re here. We’ll take turns to go home tomorrow morning. But only for a quick shower, and then we’ll be back!”
The nurse was moved by the kids’ love for their teacher. She gave them some candy and left for the day.
The night had passed, and Jack, Dustin, and April were tired from barely catching any sleep at the 24-hour hospital cafeteria.
Just as they had planned, they each were picked up by their parents, turn by turn. The parents then dropped the children at the hospital within an hour, leaving them with sound advice.
“Don’t hover around her too much. Give her her space.”
“Don’t be a menace to the hospital staff.”
“And don’t forget to study when you can! The exam is in less than a week!”
There was, indeed, very little time left until the exams. And more than the parents, the school principal, Mr. Singer, was deeply worried about the three kids.
“Yes, hello, you say you saw all three children there?”
Mr. Singer was talking to the office boy he had sent to the hospital to check on the kids.
“Yes, Mr. Singer. Jack, Dustin, and April. They’re all here, and the hospital staff says they’ve been here the whole time. They say they won’t leave until Ms. Crane gets better.”
Mr. Singer hung up and continued pacing across his cabin.
“God knows their heart is in the right place. But I can’t let them miss class like this. They need to study and prepare for the big tests, or else they might fall behind an entire year. No, I’m not going to let that happen!” Mr. Singer got off his chair, grabbed his car keys off the table, and left with purpose.
Noon had just passed, and the kids stepped out of Ms. Crane’s room after another brief visit with her.
“She’ll make it, I just know!” April tried to console her new friends.
Just then, the kids heard a familiar voice, and an instinct of fear kicked into all their hearts at the same time.
“Jack, Dustin, April! There you are!”
They turned around and froze as they saw their school principal approaching them.
“What are we supposed to do now?” Dustin muttered to his classmates without moving his lips.
“G-Good morning, Mr. Singer!”
“Good afternoon!” the man corrected them with his commanding voice.
“A little birdie told me you have been here since yesterday morning?” Mr. Singer asked as the wrinkles on his forehead grew deeper.
“Yes, Mr. Singer.”
“And you’ve refused to leave until she regains consciousness?”
April locked her fingers in nervousness and replied, “Yes, Mr. Singer.”
“Well, then, you leave me no choice!” Mr. Singer said and handed a big bag to each kid.
Dustin, Jack, and April looked at each other, afraid and puzzled at the same time.
There was one bag of textbooks, one bag of blankets, and the third one was full of warm food.
The kids shared another look; this time, it was of shock.
“I wasn’t going to let you be the only ones waiting for Ms. Crane. She’s like a sister to me, you know. And besides, I still want you to pass the exams…” Mr. Singer said, looking into their eyes.
“Alright now, scoot over and make some room. We have an hour before we can visit your teacher again. Let’s dig into some chemistry…and some lasagne, shall we?”
The four well-wishers of Ms. Crane spent the next hour engrossed in studies and good food until it was finally time to get up and go see her again.
This time, Dustin frowned and didn’t want to go.
“I…I can’t see her like this. What if she never wakes up?” the boy cried into Mr. Singer’s chest.
“Well, what if she does?” The principal asked. “You know that God put you here, right? You’re his designated angels, here to hold the fort while he resolves another crisis.”
The kids tried to look sincere, but in their minds, they knew they were too old to believe in the likes of angels.
“Just hold the fort some more. He’ll be back to healing Ms. Crane soon!” Mr. Singer wished the kids would believe him, shake off their gloom, and get up from their chairs. But they didn’t.
Not until five minutes later, when the nurse walked up to them and said: “Great news, Ms. Crane has regained her consciousness. She’s asking for Jack, Dustin, and April. I’m guessing that’s you guys?”
The kids stood up in disbelief while Mr. Singer looked up, joined his hands, and said: “Wow, God, that was fast!”
The kids laughed, teared up, and shrieked joyfully, holding each other. They quickly pulled Mr. Singer into an emotional hug.
That was a moment that none of them would forget for the rest of their lives.
What can we learn from this story?
- Don’t forget the kind souls who lifted you when you were down. Like Jack, Dustin, and April, we owe it to the teachers, friends, and family members who helped us through our most difficult times.
- Kindness deserves to be encouraged, not punished. Mr. Singer recognized the kind intentions of the children, even though they missed school in the process. Instead of penalizing them, he found a way to help them study without interrupting their good deed.