46: Persistence Pays

46: Persistence Pays

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teacher Tales

Persistence Pays

Trust your hunches.
They’re usually based on facts filed away just below the conscious level.

~Joyce Brothers

As the door to my portable classroom opened, a gust of wintry air captured the papers on my desk. I looked up from grading essays to see Jessie rushing through the door, her dark hair whipping around her head. I wondered what kind of creative excuse she would offer for missing my junior honors English class earlier that day.

She hurried across the room, talking a mile a minute. “Ms. Sturm, I came to tell you why I missed class today. I really like your class; I wasn’t skipping, honest. You see, Casey and me, we were worried about our friend. She said she was going to commit suicide.”

Suicide? Alarm bells clanged in my head. Her friend had been talking about committing suicide? Does she realize how many teens follow through on their suicide threats? I wondered how I could intervene and help.

“When she didn’t show for third hour, we were worried,” Jessie continued. “We went to her house to check up on her. Honest. That’s all we were doing. So since I wasn’t skipping your class, can I get my make-up work? Please?”

“Jessie, this is more important than your English grade. Do you realize how serious your friend’s situation might be?”

“Oh, my friend’s great! Casey and me just came from her house. Can I get my work?”

Still trying to intervene, I questioned her. “Jessie, will you give me your friend’s name?”

“No, I can’t.”

“Jessie, have you told an adult who knows your friend? What about your mom or dad or your friend’s parents?”

“Oh, no, I couldn’t do that. We promised we wouldn’t tell. We promised! I wouldn’t have told you except I need my make-up work. She won’t do anything stupid. Honest.”

For the next fifteen minutes I pleaded with her, whispering inaudible prayers the whole time. My heart silently screamed at me not to let her out of my room until she promised to tell a trusted adult.

“What about Mrs. Cable, the school counselor? Have you confided in her? You know she’s trained to deal with potential suicides and she knows how to keep everything confidential.”

Calm on the outside, I was beginning to feel desperate inside and prayed that Jessie would talk with Mrs. Cable and divulge the friend’s name.

At long last Jessie relented. “Okay Ms. Sturm. Since you insist, I’ll go tell Mrs. Cable, and I’ll tell her my friend’s name. Now can I get my make-up assignment?”

Quickly I gave her the day’s work and sent her to the counselor’s office.

Several days passed before Jessie popped back into my room after school to tell me what had happened. “Ms. Sturm, you’ll never guess what happened at Mrs. Cable’s.”

“What happened, Jessie? Is your friend alright?”

“I went to the counselor’s office. Thank you for making me go.”

“Good for you Jessie. You did the right thing. So what happened?”

“Right away Mrs. Cable called her mom. I was so scared we’d get in trouble….”

Jessie continued her story, “Her mom went to check and then we heard her mom scream and Mrs. Cable called 911 and they went and revived my friend and took her to the hospital. Ms. Sturm, I want to thank you for saving my friend’s life. The doctor said she would have died in another hour. She’s out of the hospital now and getting counseling. Thank you for making me tell. You saved her life. Thank you. Thank you.”

With that farewell, Jessie flew out the door, letting it bang shut. In the quiet of my empty room I shed my tears. I never learned the name of her friend, but I know she’s alive today because I wouldn’t give up.

~Nancy Hamilton Sturm

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