It’s phenomenal to see how freely children share their hearts.

I experienced this quite literally with a student in my sixth-grade classroom. James had been born with a heart problem. He had had his first open heart surgery when he was only in first grade, and during this sixth grade year he had to be scheduled for another. On the day he received this news he was quite discouraged. This boy who usually filled our classroom with enthusiastic chatter was subdued. He dragged through the day, and I wanted to help him feel better. I wanted to build him up and lift his spirits.

When the final bell rang I asked James to stay and help me put away some supplies, which gave us a chance to talk as we worked. I said, “James, your parents wrote me a note telling me about the surgery. What is going to happen?”

He replied, “They are going to open my chest, open up my heart, and then take out the valve that doesn’t work and replace it with a pig valve.”

I asked, “How do you feel about that?”

He said, “I think it’s gross! I don’t want a pig valve. I think that’s sick. I want a bionic valve!”

“What happens if the pig valve doesn’t work?”

“I guess they’ll just take it out and put in another one. And if that doesn’t work,” he said matter-of-factly, “I guess I’ll just die.”

The empty classroom was silent. Neither James nor I spoke, but inside it was as if someone was screaming. I looked into the eyes of my young student and said, “Don’t die, James. You can have my heart.”

“No, Mr. Wilcox,” he smiled—the first smile I’d seen all day, “I can’t take your heart. You have a good heart. I love your heart.”

I had wanted to lift James.

I had wanted to help him and love him, but like the true child he was, he lifted me. He helped me. He loved me.

That’s the kind of love we all need to have in our lives.

Brad Wilcox
Brad Wilcox has lived in Ethiopia, Chile, and New Zealand; he and his family now make their home amid the Rocky Mountains. Brad taught sixth grade before obtaining his PhD in education from the University of Wyoming. His contributions as an author and teacher have been honored by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, and his work has appeared in Guideposts magazine and Reader’s Digest. He has served as a member of the National Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America and has addressed thousands of youth and adults across the United States, Europe, Australia, and Japan. He and his wife, Debi, are the parents of four children.
Brad Wilcox
Brad Wilcox

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  • Betty Ann Quirino @Mango_Queen

    What a beautiful story. This just made me cry. God bless you for sharing the love.

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