I'm a school nurse. Yes, the person who calls to tell you that your child fell off the monkey bars, bit another student, has a fever, or GOD FORBID, lice.
Yeah, we know all sorts of crazy happens after that phone call.
I approach any phone call home with more than a little trepidation. It doesn't matter the reason for my call, the response is always the same. I introduce myself. There is a brief moment of silence followed by a sharp intake of breath, and then you, slightly panicked, trying to play it cool: OHMYGOODNESSWHATHAPPENED!
Take it easy Tiger; maybe I'm just calling to get your cupcake recipe from the bake sale. Do we always have to assume the worst?
This is one of my favorites. I'm really fond of my long slender neck and slightly startled look.
As part of my job I get asked a lot of questions and I hear a lot of stories.
From YOUR children.
Lets just take a moment to ponder that.
Those characters of yours tell some whoppers that make me laugh until I need my inhaler.
As evidence, I present to you these little gems:
Student: Mrs. Donahue my mom asked me to tell all my teachers about my new diagnosis. I let them know that I have Leprosy.
Me: That's great! I'm proud of you for being so responsible! (I then spent the afternoon making urgent phone calls notifying his teachers that he had Epilepsy and not Leprosy. Worrisome yes, but you know, on a different level)
"Mrs. Donahue, I just violated myself in the bathroom." (After further questioning it was determined he had only vomited, but kudos for putting that new English vocab word to use)
"Do you think I might have Parkinson's?" (No, I think you drank too much coffee.)
Student: I'm pretty sure I have Fattigoo.
Me: Hmmm. Can you spell that for me?
"We just studied sexually transmitted diseases in class. Do you have any tranquilizers?" (Oh little lamb, lets call mom)
"Are you sure I'm not dying?" (Metaphysically or right now from a disease?)
"Mrs. Donahue, I think the carbuncle on my buttock popped." (I have no response for this.)
"Can you look to see if I have a tapeworm?" (No.) (Hell no.)
Do you see what I'm working with?
I call this one Rainbows and Ice Cream Cone, or Rainbows and Baby Jesus in a Manger from my heart to yours. I also adore that she spelled her name wrong and that there are googly eyes. The world would be a better place with more googly eyes.
But, its a two way street. I also have to ask a lot of questions and get the story behind what is going on. A carbuncle you say? Tell me all about it. What exactly do you mean by "popped?" Like, running down your leg leakage or sticking to your underwear leakage?
Gather information, get the story, and make a plan. Don't roll your eyes, snicker, or gag. And NEVER looked surprised.
That's my job in a nutshell.
Over the years I have found two questions that are key to my job. What do you need, and tell me your story. What do you need right now? What do you need to get through class? What do you need to make it through today?
Sometimes though I need to close the door, silence my phone; sit down and say, "Tell me your story." I need to hear the story behind the stomachaches. I need to hear why you attended three different schools this year. Sometimes, sometimes I can only help after I have heard the story. Because at times the most appropriate treatment is not a Band-Aid or Tylenol. It is being heard. Sometime the healing can't start until the story is told.
And so I found myself the other day, sitting across the table from a very young mother and father. They were frightened. They were ashamed. They felt judged. They were crying deep ugly sobs. Their children had been removed from their home. They didn't know what would happen next.
I had worked with this young family for months, and in the end their lives derailed. I was conflicted in the most uncomfortable of ways. I felt as though I had somehow betrayed them. After all, aren't they are just broken people trying to find their way? On the other hand....I was so mad, my inner sense of justice yelled "They deserved this." But, I believe in GRACE, and I believe that God is in the relationship business, and the family business, and the healing business. So I put aside my frustration, and put the lid on my anger. I set down my notebook, capped my pen, silenced my phone and closed the door.
I grabbed a box of tissues and asked my question.
Tell me your story.
"Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable."