That day, Margaret frantically raced into her classroom after recess, late again. Ms. Garner was furious, “Margaret!” she shouted, “we have been waiting for you! Get up her to the front of the class right now!”
Margaret walked slowly to the teacher’s desk, was told to face the class, and then slowly the nightmare began.
Ms. Garner ranted, “Boys and girls, Margaret has been a bad girl. I have tried to help her to be responsible. But, apparently, she doesn’t want to learn. So we must teach her a lesson. We must forcer her to face what a selfish person she has become. I want each of you to come to the front of the room, take a piece of chalk, and write something bad about Margaret on the blackboard. Maybe this experience will motivate her to become a better person!”
Margaret stood frozen next to Ms. Garner. One by one, the students began a silent procession to the blackboard. One by one, the students wrote their life-smothering words, slowly extinguishing the light in Margaret’s soul. “Margaret is stupid! Margaret is selfish! Margaret is fat! Margaret is a dummy!” On and on they went, until twenty five terrible scribblings of Margaret’s “badness” screamed from the blackboard.
The venomous statements taunted Margaret in what felt like the longest day of her life. After walking home with each caustic word indelibly written on her soul, she crawled into her bed, claiming sickness, and try to cry the pain away, but the pain never left, and forty years later, she slumped in the waiting room of a psychologist’s office, still cringing in the shadow of those twenty five sentences. To her horror, Margaret had slowly become what the students had written.
Remember Margaret? After decades of depression and anxiety, she had finally sought help and was having the last meeting with her psychologist. Two long years of weekly counseling helped Margaret to finally extricate herself from her past. It had been a long an difficult road, but she smiled at her counselor (how long it had been since she smiled!) as they talked about her readiness to move on.
“Well, Margaret,” the counselor said softly, “I guess it’s graduation day for you. How are you feeling?”
After a long silence, Margaret spoke. “I…I’m okay.”
The counselor hesitated. “Margaret, I know this will be difficult, but just to make sure you’re ready to move on, I am going to ask you to do something. I want to go back to your schoolroom and detail the events of that day. Take your time. Describe each of the children as they approach the blackboard, remember what they wrote and how you felt – all twenty five students.”
In a way, this would be easy for Margaret. For forty years she had remembered every detail. And yet, to go through the nightmare one more time would take every bit of strength she had. After a long silence, she began the painful description. One by one, she described each of the students vividly, as though she had just seen them, stopping periodically to regain her composure, forcing herself to face each of those students one more time.
Finally, she was done, and the tears would not stop, could not stop. Margaret cried a long time before she realized ...
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