I remember the broken girl like it was yesterday. Constantly in trouble. Constantly failing. Constantly disruptive. Of course all the other students loved her antics – she was a classic class clown. Of course all the other teachers couldn’t stand her - she was classically defiant of authority. But she didn’t fool me. I saw past the façade and right to her pain.
The broken girl was born with a genetic defect – her tiny, misshapen fingers ended at her elbow. She painted those tiny fingernails and delighted in freaking kids out by touching them with her hand. She laughed along with the others as they made fun of her abnormality, pretending that her otherness was a source of delight rather than misery. How was it, then, that I seemed to be the only one who could see the truth?
As students began to select topics for their significant historical figures biography report, I gave the broken girl a book about Jim Abbott. Though she was no sports fan, I asked her to read the story of the Major League Baseball pitcher who had been born without a hand.
I remember the broken girl like it was yesterday. She was standing in front of the classroom, demonstrating how Jim Abbott passed his baseball glove from one arm to the other. Her unique hand enabled her to tell the extraordinary tale of a differently-abled athlete in a way that no one else could.
And as I caught her eye and saw her shy smile, a little broken piece fell into place.