TIME FOR SARAH
By Connie L. Coppings
We moved to a small town where my husband was assigned as a
minister to a local congregation. I was unpacking one day when the
phone rang. A voice on the other end said, "Your name was given to
me as a possibility for a mentor in our school." Knowing very few people
in town, I tried to imagine who might have volunteered me for this.
Realizing the lady was waiting for an answer, I replied, "Let me think
about it and call you back."
I returned to my unpacking, but my mind was busy going over all the
reasons I couldn't be a mentor. I wasn't even a parent, so how could
I work with kids. I wouldn't know what to do. I don't really have the
time. What if the child didn't like me? My list of excuses (uh, I mean
reasons) was growing by the minute and I did a pretty good job of
talking myself out of it.
Suddenly a thought entered my mind. Connie, do you remember all the
people that have taken time for you over the years? I knew this had
come from God, certainly not from me, as I was too busy being selfish
at the time.
Faces of family, friends, teachers, and coworkers crossed my mind
and all that they'd sacrificed to help me. I was a shy child and God
placed many loving, patient people along my life's journey. He knew
who I would need at various points to help me through that particular
period of my life. Could I do any less for someone else?
I was still hesitant, but placed a call to the school and agreed to be
a mentor. The lady in the office said, "I have a fourth grade girl who
really needs some help. Just sign in at the school office and we ask
that you come one hour each week." The only other things I knew were
her name, Sarah, and that she came from a poor home situation.
I was nervous as I arrived for our first mentoring session. I was shown
to Sarah's classroom and introduced to her. A room down the hall was
available for us to meet in and off we went. I sensed this was going to
be a "long" hour. Nothing prepared me for what happened that day.
Wanting to put Sarah at ease, I said, "Let me tell you a little about
myself and then you can tell me about yourself." So, I rattled off
some facts and then waited for her to talk. Total silence greeted me.
Her long hair hung across her face and she didn't even look at me when
I was talking. We sat in silence for a few minutes and it soon became
obvious she wasn't going to share any information about herself. I had
to think of something quick.
Questions---wasn't that how you got information from others? "Tell me
about your family." When that didn't get any response, I tried, "What
are your favorite subjects in school?" Then I ventured, "Do you have
any favorite foods?" Nothing. Not even a faint shrug of her shoulders.
All my fears that I would fail at this came rushing in at once. How
could I help a child when she wouldn't even speak to me?
Not knowing what else to do I said, "Why don't we go back to you
classroom?" She almost bolted from the room and was down the
hall and back in her class before I could even say good-by to her.
I prayed about this over the next week and decided to give it a
little more time.
I went back over the next several weeks and the scene was
repeated over and over. I asked questions; she sat in silence.
Her teacher assured me Sarah was benefiting from these sessions,
but I failed to see what good I was doing. Then one week,
something different happened.
I had just asked Sarah another question when she looked at me
and said, "You ask too many questions." After I recovered from
the shock of hearing her speak, I told her that one way to get me
to stop asking questions was for her talk. From that time on, we
began to make progress in our relationship.
Bit by bit, she began to share about herself. I want to be a beautician
when I graduate from high school," she would often tell me. Since
most of her family never went beyond ninth or tenth grade, this was
surprising to hear from her. We celebrated such things as improved
grades and the fact that she was becoming more assertive in expressing
herself. On the rare occasion when I'd see her parents, they would tell
me that Sarah talked about me all the time. I was thrilled to watch her
blossom and I hoped that one day we might even be able to talk about
Sarah knew that I was a pastor's wife, but I did bring up matters of
faith with her as I didn't feel that was my role with her in that setting.
As we grew more comfortable with each other, she would occasionally
mention church, but nothing deeper.
Sarah surprised me one day by greeting me with, "Can I call you on
the phone sometime?" I was pleased she felt that safe with me and
agreed she could call once a week. When she did call, there would
be a period of silence and then I'd hear, "Hi," followed by more silence.
After some discussion about how to have a telephone conversation,
she began to be more at ease on the phone and would sometimes
chat with me as if we were girlfriends. The staff at school couldn't
believe she was calling me and sharing herself so freely.
Sarah and I began our relationship when she was in the fourth grade
and continued till she was in high school. We moved at that time,
but I still got the occasional phone call from her to fill me in on what
was happening. One day I received a very special call from Sarah.
In numerous phone calls Sarah had mentioned that she was going
to a church near where she lived. I had encouraged her to keep
doing so, but really hadn't pushed her to make any kind of commitment.
In one of her last phone calls to me she stated, "I went forward at
church and accepted Christ last Sunday and was baptized." What
a joyous announcement that was to hear!
I haven't heard from Sarah in quite some time, but she is always in
my heart and my prayers. Sometimes I reflect on the fact that
I almost didn't take the time to be a mentor to Sarah, it grieves
me to think that I thought there was no time in my life to help her.
I pray that Sarah's life will continue to move in positive directions
because of our relationship. She certainly blessed my life.
I hope you will consider giving of your time and talents to a child
in need. Please let a child know that someone believes in them.
I think of it as an investment in our future. Be a mentor!
I wonder where would I be today without the support of so
many wonderful people. And, where would this child be if I hadn't taken. . .
Time for Sarah.
Connie L. Coppings
Write Connie and let her know your thoughts on her story!
Connie L. Coppings lives in Kentucky with her husband, Bob,
and their tenacious terrier, Eli. She is a pastor's wife and
freelance writer. Her work appears in The Upper Room, Mature
Years, Devotions (Standard Publishing), and she's one of the
contributors to a newspaper column titled, "Life Happens."
In her spare time Connie enjoys cooking, playing the piano,
reading, and spending time with her wonderful husband.
Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org