This Is Not a Permanent Situation

This Is Not a Permanent Situation

From A 6th Bowl of Chicken Soup for the Soul

This Is Not a Permanent Situation

A chilly day in 1974. Mrs. Fox teaches the fourth grade at Beardsley Elementary. The morning-bell rings. Single file, the restless children enter the stuffy classroom to the now familiar command of “take your seat.” Attendance taken, flag saluted, Mrs. Fox has an announcement. “Class,” she says in her ancient voice, “today we are going to change our seating assignments. I have decided to place the smartest child in the first seat of the first row. The next smartest will sit in the second seat of the first row, and so on and so on. Now remember, this is not a permanent arrangement, you can move up a seat as you improve your grades.” The first child is called to her place of honor. Mrs. Fox directs the former occupant of row one to take her things and move back a seat. Quickly gathering my things, I did as I was told.

Names called, new seats taken. I continued to move back, desk by desk. Left standing, it seemed that all eyes were on me that fateful day as Mrs. Fox reached the bottom of her list. I yearned to hear my name. Surely I wouldn’t be the last name called! Finally, the humiliation ended. . . . but not before Mrs. Fox announced that I was the “dumbest kid in her fourth-grade class.”

It shouldn’t be surprising that when I finally dropped out of high school, I was still reading at the fourth-grade level. That day, Mrs. Fox planted in me a seed of worthlessness. It would take eleven years and a personal tragedy to uproot this spirit of inadequacy and create a new life of purpose and achievement.

I believe that the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, whether you like it or not. My education began on board a helicopter. Seven months pregnant, the prognosis grim, I was airlifted to UCLA Medical Center. My life would never again be the same.

Only those familiar with the sounds and smells of a neonatal intensive care unit can fathom the sense of the surreal that one experiences in such a place. I was there, off and on, for seventeen months. My precious baby boy, Derek, was born with a life-threatening birth defect. His chances for survival slim.

The Bible says that all things work together for good for those who love the Lord. Well, I love the Lord and if there is one “good” thing that came from this experience, it was the transforming power of a mother’s love that motivated me to create a new belief that I can do, be and achieve anything. And I do mean anything.

For seventeen months I cared for Derek. I found myself working side-by-side with the best pediatric surgeons in the world. These wonderful physicians became my mentors. They believed that I possessed the natural abilities necessary to become a good doctor. They taught me medical procedures and asked me to go on rounds so that I might offer encouragement to other parents. I became the subject of a documentary and was interviewed by prominent psychiatrists to discuss the coping mechanisms I utilized to survive such a horrific ordeal. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, the hospital experience was to be the easy part of this journey.

Thank God that the seed of hope was buried deep in my pain. When Derek died before his second birthday, I would suffer such severe grief that I truly felt that my heart was physically damaged. It is said that time heals all wounds. This I know to be untrue, that a piece of this mother’s heart is missing, at the cusp of the wound, a festering hurt.

For over a year, God comforted my soul and brought healing to my broken heart. As he worked on my spirit, I worked on my body. I found that the intense physical exercise not only strengthened my muscles, it also strengthened my mind. With renewed energy and clarity of thought, I made a decision to return to school.

I can’t even remember his name today. He was my guidance counselor at the adult school. Although his name has slipped my mind, his words will never be forgotten. “You want to be a public speaker? Who would listen to you? What have you got to say? And look at your test scores. My God, you’re at the fourth-grade reading level. It will take you years to finish high school let alone college.” I can’t recall my exact words, but they went something like this: “You don’t know me so will you please SHUT UP!” You know, there was a lot of truth in what my counselor said that day—it did take seven years to complete my undergraduate and masters degree in psychology.

Today I share hope and encouragement to anyone who will listen. I challenge people to find the gift in the pain. There is good in every bad experience, we just have to believe that it is there, and that if we search for it, we will find it.

Krista Buckner

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