How many times as a child did you threaten to run away from home or a situation just because your feelings were hurt or you weren’t getting your way? I threatened countless times but I never actually did it. However, I have a child who ran away. Not from home but ran away from school one day. Yes, you read correctly. He ran away from school one day.
Why did he run away and where did he go? He was only a first grader and six years old. At that age, no one would expect a child to run away. But we are not talking about any child. We are talking about my child, Matthew. The fearless, independent child with a vehement determination.
He felt slighted by his teacher. He got his feelings hurt, which for him at that time, was common. Although quite stubborn, he was also highly sensitive. A people-pleasing fella who didn’t like getting in trouble. He was sensitive to the reprimand given by his teacher and so when she wasn’t paying attention, he made a run for it.
When Mrs. Tribby discovered he was gone, she sent Marcie Burlett, her TA, out to find Matthew. Luckily, they knew where he would go but he arrived at his destination before Marcie could catch him.
I was in the kitchen when I heard the screen door open, I walked around the corner to find an out-of-breath Matthew.
“How did you get home?” I inquired.
“I ran away from school.” He replied.
“Matthew, you know you can’t just run away. I’m going to have to take you back to school.” I told him.
Suddenly there was wrapping on the door and there stood a winded and scared Marcie. “Oh, I am so thankful he’s here. We assumed and hoped this is where he would come.” Then she bent towards Matthew and said, “You scared us. You know you can’t just run away from school, right?”
“I know. I just got upset and wanted to come home to my Momma.” Matthew replied.
Obediently he walked back to school with Marcie. Once there Mrs. Tribby made sure that he understood how scared they were. The dangers of running away and the importance of talking through things and not leaving things unsettled. She assured me later that he understood and I would no longer be receiving visits from Matthew midday.
I am fairly certain, to this day, Matthew has been able to endure hurtful and confrontational issues more appropriately because of this lesson learned in his early years.
As I contemplate the significance of this experience I am reminded of how compassion truly works. Mrs. Tribby and Marcie both acted with great compassion. They understood why Matthew ran away but they didn’t tell him it was okay. Just the opposite, they made it very clear that what he had done was wrong and there was a better way to deal with the situation. They also made it clear they loved him and wanted the best for him but they did not allow him to stay at home, nor did I. He needed to go back to school to work things out.
Often we talk about compassion but we fail to show compassion or true compassion. True compassion understands or empathizes with why we make certain choices. But compassion does not appease the choice, when the choice is wrong or can bring us harm. Compassion calls it out. Compassion tells you when you’re wrong but compassion never hangs you out to dry. No. No. No. Compassion speaks the truth in love and then says, “I am here to help walk you through the process of making things right.” Compassion takes courage and commitment.