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Grace is Love in Action

Each day offers opportunities to impact the lives of many

By Brenda MahlerPublished 9 days ago 5 min read
Grace is Love in Action
Photo by Anastasiia Krutota on Unsplash

We should be determined to live for something. May I suggest that it be to create joy for others, share what we have for the betterment of personkind, bring hope to the lost and love to the lonely.

As a teacher, my goal was to teach more than English when asked what I taught, my response was children. As a principal, my desire was to model respect and compassion. Come experience a day with the kids and me. These vignettes share real experiences from my days working in schools where my goal was to promote an environment of acceptance.

“Grace is love that cares and stoops and rescues.” -John Stott

Sharing the grace of diligence teaches persistence

The front doors to the middle school opened into the cafeteria where the day officially began for students.

Andrew, as required, met his teachers just beyond the doors to be searched and observed. Searched to confiscate non-educational contraband and observed to see if it will be a good day, or not so good. From his morning greeting, “I hate that fucking bus driver” or “Hey, Mrs. Steele,” he established the mood. Like Jell-O, everyone knew if things heated up, Andrew melted down.

Except for his colorful vocabulary, this young man embraced a heart of gold and the mind of a toddler encased in the body of a 278-pound teenager. He responded positively to food and humor but revolted against requests and requirements. Our goal was to offer him the kindness to inspire him to show kindness in return.

Sharing the grace of encouragement builds responsibility.

On any given day, after shedding my purse, coat and storing my lunch, I walked through the halls greeting students with a high five, and asked students questions about their previous evening. Each had a story to tell. Anthony dressed in a red and white striped shirt, tight jeans, wore black-rimmed glasses and carried a backpack.

Anthony reminded me of Waldo from The Eye Spy books; he was forgetful and lost. In the book Waldo roamed the book and with the page turned dropped a personal belonging. Much the same, Anthony roamed the halls. Because of his impulsiveness, teachers repeatedly asked him to put his cell phone in his locker, and he often required redirection to slow down or keep his hands to himself.

The grace of empathy promotes success

When I returned to my office, a list waited for my attention. I knew as the day unfolded priorities would demand my attention and the list would grow; it seldom diminished. Often the list held an inventory of names, students whose misdeeds needed addressing. Through empathy, consequences, and dialogue, I worked beside students to build relationships, plans, and problem-solving skills.

I smiled apprehensively when the secretary announced the first arrival, Tadd. He never seemed to have control over his lanky, 12-year-old body. His reputation preceded him: his fingers stole an iPod; his hands gestured improperly; his arms threw a bolt down the crowded hall; his head repeatedly sported a forbidden hat, and his body performed a victory dance in the middle of class.

Whether a mature mind might someday develop to match his age, or his actions would conform to society’s expectations was yet to be seen. When his parents spoke supportive words in the office, their body language yelled rejection. I made sure to offer encouragement and weave reassurance between the lines of his behavior plan.

The grace of acceptance reassures individual worth

When Jenny entered my office, her dyed hair, black clothes, and dark attitude released a gust of sadness that enveloped the room. A concerned shadow circled her eyes reflecting rebellion with a hint of longing.

The daily point sheet, if it had been picked up at all, was returned unsigned by a parent, not because of defiance but the knowledge that attempts to get signatures required energy she didn’t possess.

The bulge of her notebook provided evidence of banned notes as a similar bulge in her pocket confirmed the presence of a cell phone; both provided assurances of approval.

By being tardy to class, Jenny prolonged the negative and remained in the fellowship of peers. Her refusals to comply masked her failures while declaring her independence. Her proclamation of bisexuality granted inclusion by both girls and boys.

The grace of forgiveness endorses dignity

Usually, Amos signed in late. When he didn’t come to school his mother wrote excuses the next day. A professional letter had been sent to the school board and the prosecuting attorney proclaimed him a habitual truant.

When he did appear, he most likely loitered in the halls avoiding the classroom. Once he wrote on the lockers — maybe to notify others of his existence. In the office we provided a warm welcome of hospitality that brought him back again to roam and search the school halls.

The grace of generosity offers respectability

Upon opening and reading the emails, I added Johnny’s name to my list. His new school requested more information about him. What could be said about the school’s adopted child? After eating the school-provided breakfast, he brushed his teeth with a toothbrush his English teacher stored in her desk drawer.

Jonny wore donated clothes once worn by the science teacher’s son, and the history teacher investigated steps to gain foster care licensing. With his absence, my wash loads decreased but he remained in our hearts. In response to the email asking about strategies to support success, I replied, “Give him love. Keep him safe.”

The grace of patience instills hope

Surrounded by teenagers’ energy, I walked towards the buses wondering how a thousand students exited a building, boarded buses, and disappeared in five minutes.

Outside the buses, students loitered with friends, so strange there was now no hurry to leave the place they had hated and cursed all day. For them must be bestowed with the grace of patience so they will learn to accept life for what it has to offer.

Boys and girls hugged goodbye in a manner that activated memories of watching soldiers leave wives and children as they departed for a tour of duty. Students who experienced their “first love” learned about future relationships through the gift of experience.

The day ended with a phone message from an Arizona school principal responding to a request for information about Marcus. I read the notations quickly realizing his behaviors remained similar since his move to Idaho: argumentative, non-compliant, tardy, disruptive, and violent. His name remained on the top of my list to address tomorrow.


Each child — each person — carries their past which molds who we are and who we will become. Each one of them and all of us through the sacrifice of others receive grace not because it is deserved, but because it is granted. Daily I am thankful that we are not given what is deserved.

Teachers go to college to learn their subjects: math, science, English, history. They are masters of the curriculum. However, teachers teach children. John C. Maxwell first penned, “Students don’t care what you know until the know that you care.”

When I’ve watched students walk across the stage to receive a diploma, I remember they are not simply graduating from academics but traveling into a world that requires continual grace.

(The vignettes shared are true stories about students I connected with as a middle school administrator. Names are changed, but these students are representative of the teens that walk the halls of schools. Working beside them provided me the opportunity to develop compassion and learn the art of being fully human.)


About the Creator

Brenda Mahler


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