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Don't Knock Me Over
There are many not of our faith who have also been given spiritual gifts. This concept of gifts is not just reserved for members, but gifts were given in the premortal existence, and it is up to us to uncover and share these gifts. One experience that comes to mind is about a student who shared his gifts abundantly. I will call him Carlos.
Excerpt From You Will Be Found by Michelle Porcelli
I was already tired and running late for work. I pulled into the parking lot and my favorite spot was already taken so I searched for the second-best parking spot, again it was taken. And so went the morning. I found a spot further from the front door than I had hoped as it began to rain. We needed moisture but I wondered why it couldn’t have waited two more minutes for me to enter the building. I put my laptop bag over my head in hopes of avoiding damaging my newly straightened hair, but that only worked for the crown of my head and the rest my hair began to frizz up. I was still determined to have a good attitude.
I entered through the double doors with my purse in my right “hand, laptop bag hung over my right shoulder. In my left hand I balanced a bucket of stress balls, and, hanging from my ring and pinky fingers, a plastic grocery bag holding my lunch. I walked carefully, hoping I didn’t drop it nor the bucket. As I turned the corner to enter my classroom, I could see Carlos down at the other end of the long hallway.
He wasn’t supposed to be out of class, but maybe he was just getting back from a bathroom break, so I didn’t say anything. He was tall for his grade and often mistaken for an older student. He always had a friendly smile but was often bullied because he outweighed even the biggest kid by 50 pounds. Then, I heard him call, “Mrs. Porcelli! Mrs. Porcelli,” although, I pretended not to hear him. Then I see him coming toward “me. At first, he walked and then he began to run full speed ahead.
He was now full-out charging towards me while calling my name. I froze in my tracks and tried to firmly square my feet so that he couldn’t knock me over so easily. I dropped my purse and laptop bag to the ground and put my right hand out, trying to slow him down. And then it happened. As he barreled toward me, he skidded to a full stop, hitting my hand. He looked me in the eyes, oblivious to my panic, and exclaimed, “Oh Mrs. Porcelli! Where have you been? I have missed you!” My heart melted and he grabbed my arm and hugged it with all his might. While I was losing a bit of feeling in that arm from it being tugged on, I was overcome with joy that this young student who was so innocent shared his gift of optimism with me.
He could have been a bitter student, hating everyone for being so mean to him. But instead, he chose to share his light. In this way, he was like Abish. He chose to be like a warrior of goodness regardless of how others treated him. He was like Ammon. He chose to be open to the Spirit to know how to soften hearts. He was like the queen. He chose to continue being a leader, sharing goodness and later ending up on the student council. He was like King Lamoni.
I told the student, “Thank you. I missed you too!” with that he smiled and skipped back to class. The rest of the day seemed to go by smoothly until I had my hardest class come in for the counselor lesson. There was a certain 6th grade class whose teacher seemed to always be distracted with other things and would often leave me to handle their class’s behaviors all by myself. I had to be sharp and organized.
Being prepared was my best tactic and I was hoping it worked. I wanted to continue sharing my spiritual gifts just as Carlos had earlier shared his gifts with me. Today, we were talking about growth mindset and being resilient. I shared a short video clip from the movie Akeelah and the Bee6 when she “is at the national spelling bee. I asked students to watch and see how Akeelah used a growth mindset to learn how to spell hard words.
She learned in a unique way. After viewing the short clip, some students were impressed that she jumps rope and uses rhythm to spell even the hardest of words. Then, I clicked the next slide displaying the adjective “argillaceous.” That was the only word or picture on the slide. “Guess what we are going to do now?” Students looked curious as they knew I always had something fun but challenging up my sleeve. “We are going to have our own spelling bee and I am going to give you two minutes to practice this word before I call you up front.” Oh boy, the kids sat up in their chairs, some groaned in complaint, and I played along saying, “Don’t waste any time. Figure it out. Ready, Go!”
With that direction given, I discovered some kids using white boards to practice writing the word, some were just spelling it out loud with their eyes closed, and others were tapping or even jumping in rhythm. It is fun to help them use their anxious energy in a good way. Sometimes we fear feeling uncomfortable, but my goal is to teach students to channel this energy to help them rise to the occasion or challenge. Sometimes I am a stinker and I’ll say things just to get the “eye rollers” to hop into action: “No pressure, but all of the first grade has already done this and many spelled the word correctly.” One student heard this and said, “Is that why my little brother keeps challenging me to spell this word? This is where “it came from?” I laughed and said, “I am happy to hear it meant so much to him. It is meant to be a fun experience. So, who is now ready to have some fun?” With that request called out, the students were cheering and begging for me to choose them first to come up front.
I thought I would relieve many students when I shared that it would be completely voluntary and no one “has to” come up front. However, not a single hand was lowered. Then they took turns coming up and standing in front of the class and spelling A-R-G-I-L-L-A-C-E-O-U-S. The rule was we were to clap even if they didn’t spell it correctly, because we were applauding the “courageous courage” it took to do this. The teacher seemed dumbfounded how every student was able to spell this difficult word correctly, especially after only two minutes of practice, and asked me to share my secret with them. Realizing this teacher was a good human and likely just burned out, I shared, “Keep it fun for yourself. The students will feel that passion and be inspired to learn. You’re doing great. You have an amazing class. Hang in there.”
Over the years this teacher became one of my biggest advocates and told me their students looked forward to the lesson every month. I often hear students chant my name as I walk down the school hallway. I pretend it is because I am so cool, but realistically it is often because they know when I teach a lesson, they get a 30-minute break from math.
It took me so long to figure out how to share my spiritual gifts of light and love of learning. And some days I am so tired I forget the impact my attitude can have on these young learners. However, some days I bring it on and am on point! I hope these kids know their counselor loves them with all her heart.”
We Can Make a Difference
No matter who you are or your circumstances, you can influence others for good through sharing your gifts and being willing to share your testimony of the gospel. Don’t forget to invite others to partake as well. Even when the world may mock you for your beliefs, don’t fear. You don’t need to hide your belief, who you are, or wait for the best time to share your testimony with others. The time is now. The world hears so many negative voices on TV, social media, school hallways, and even through apps on their phone. I believe it is time we drown out the negative, replacing them with the positive messages of Christ as the Savior of the World. Not everyone will listen. Not everyone will accept. Not everyone will agree. However, those who are meant to hear will hear. You never know which stripling warrior is waiting for someone to share God’s truth with them.
So, act in faith, invite others to come unto Christ and feel His love. Share stories and testimonies of the gospel. Be sensitive to the Spirit to know when it is time for you to listen—as Abish did for years—and when it is time for you to be brave—like Ammon after repenting to the Lord. Or, you can be like my student Carlos and spread light anywhere and everywhere you can. Pray for inspiration on how to share your gifts and testify of what is in your heart. With Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ at your side, you all make quite a tribe, and you can make a difference more than you realize.
You Will Be Found