Back at the end of the last century I was assigned to work with a children's counsellor in a primary school, somewhere in England. We were tasked with meeting 7 boisterous children for one hour a week, for six weeks. The children were chosen because of their inability to 'cope' in a classroom situation.
So, week one arrived. We went into our room and waited for the children to arrive. We heard them some time before we saw them… there was shouting, there was, (from the sound of it), pushing and shoving; there was argument and some kind of tussle to 'be the first one.' In came our charges, in disordily fashion. They roamed around the room; gazed into space; bumped into each other; wouldn't listen and wouldn't sit on their chairs for more than a minute.
My mentor persevered and so our sessions began. The next session was similarly chaotic, but during the third one, something changed. There were moments of quiet and coherent responses to questions – someone even said the word, 'please, ' to someone else! Week six arrived and I couldn't believe the change in our young friends. We didn't hear them arrive until there was a knock at the door. Seven young people came in, quietly, in line and sat in their chairs. We were actually able to play games together taking turns and enjoying each other's company.
This was surely some kind of miracle. How was it possible that six hours of sharing together had transformed the behaviour of our young friends? And we weren't the only ones who had noticed, teachers and family members told us how grateful they were that the children had become happier and more settled in school. What was really going on here? If you had told me, six weeks before, that we would have seen such changes I wouldn't have believed it -yet the proof was right in front of me.
I think there are actually many reasons why the children were able to make significant changes; some of these include: the kind of attention they were receiving; the approach we used with them; the 'time out' from class – which was a difficult environment for them; shared respect and actually being listened to, as well as teacher and family support. All these things aside though, the children were able to find freedom in interacting with others, rather than fighting with them. They found that they could control their behaviour and didn't have to let their behaviour control them.
This, 'miracle' has had a great influence on my ministry since. It has helped me remember that many people are trapped and enslaved by behaviours that can be damaging to themselves and others, but that need not be the end of the story. Some of Jesus' healings came to people who were enslaved by 'demons' (what would we call these today? Demons of depression, addiction,attiudes, behaviours)? and the healing brought freedom and health.
I don't know how the young people I worked with are getting on. I hope they all continued to grow and learn and perhaps, even now, they are half-way through sixth form. I do know though, that in the six weeks I worked with them, I learned as much as they did and I'm still carrying that miracle with me.