- Sonya Leigh Anderson
Updated: Aug 27, 2019
(Fall smiles from kianagrantphotography.com)
Today, just for fun, I’d like to share a couple of stories I didn’t write. They’re stories that have blessed me, as I hope they do you.
The first I read in Joanna Gaines’ The Magnolia Journal. The article, oddly, was about the Enneagram. The author, Chris Heuertz, writes this:
Father Larry Gillick loved to tell a story about visiting an elementary school. After he gathered with a group of students, a bright girl, just 8 or 9 years old, approached him and struck up a conversation. A few moments into their discussion, she blurted out, “You’re blind!”
It’s true. Due to an illness, Father Gillick lost his sight when he was just a small child.
With genuine tenderness, Father Gillick responded, “My dear, that’s not news to me.”
But before he could say anything else, she quickly moved from shock to sorrow, sadly replying, “But you don’t know what you look like.”
That profound statement from a child caught Father Gillick off guard, and before he could comment, she ever so softly said, almost whispering, “You’re beautiful.”
Doesn’t this make you gasp out loud? It did me. I was sitting alone in my living room when I read it, and I wasn’t expecting such a breathtaking turn. Later reflecting on the story, all I could think is, I want to do what she did. I want to be that little girl.
A few days later I was reading Mark Batterson’s newest book, Whisper. It was one of three titles I picked up at Half Price Books in exchange for three boxes I’d cleared from my library shelves. I still regret it. (The exchange, that is.) Batterson tells a story toward the end of his book, worth the half price purchase.
Mary Ann Bird was born in Brooklyn, New York, in August 1928. A severe cleft palate required seventeen surgeries, but the psychological pain it caused was far worse. Mary Ann couldn’t do the simple things, such as blowing up a balloon or drinking from a water fountain. Worst of all, her classmates teased her mercilessly.
Mary Ann was also deaf in one ear, so the day of the annual hearing test was her least favorite. But it was one of those least favorite days that turned in to the defining day of her life. The whisper test isn’t done in schools any longer, so let me explain what it entailed. A teacher would call each child to their desk and ask him or her to cover one ear. Then the teacher would whisper something like “The sky is blue” or “You have new shoes.” If the student repeated the phrase successfully, he or she passed the test.
To avoid the humiliation of failing the test, Mary Ann would try to cheat by cupping her hand around her good ear so she could still hear what the teacher said. But she didn’t need to cheat the year she had Miss Leonard, the most beloved teacher in her school.
“I waited for those words,” said Mary Ann, “which God must have put into her mouth, those seven words which changed my life.” Miss Leonard didn’t choose a random phrase. Instead, she leaned across the desk, got as close as she could to Mary Ann’s good ear, and whispered, “I wish you were my little girl.”
Gasp again. I want to be that teacher.