We teach a wide variety of students. In the same class, you may find an 11-year old or a 65-year old. You may find unemployed engineers looking to improve their English and their job prospects as well as people who work for large corporations and make so much money I’m unwilling to ask how much they make.
In one class that I particularly enjoy at the moment, I have a Navy soldier, an unemployed tourism planner, a Kazak student who is learning Turkish and English simultaneously, an engineer who works with Lockheed Martin building F-16s and other aircraft and a financial director who has worked for Abbott and currently works for Johnson and Johnson.
It is a small, but very interesting class to say the least. Last week, as we were talking about jobs and what they actually do from day to day, the financial director decided to tell me a story that amazed and saddened me, but provided me with a bit more perspective. He told me that when he worked for Abbott, a medical and pharmaceutical company, he was asked to observe a variety of surgeries. He said the first time was rather difficult for him. He expected it to be a bit cleaner, but after a few times, it wasn’t so bad. During one operation on a young boy, the boy died on the table. This shocked my student quite a bit and he left the room rather shaken up. Right outside the door was the boy’s mother. Upon seeing him, she obviously asked what was happening. My student, close to tears had no idea what to do. He simply said, “I’m not a doctor. I don’t know. The doctors know.” He walked away.
I think I would have done the exact same thing if I had been in his situation. I’m not sure if that is right or wrong, but I would not have seen it as my place to tell this mother that her son had just died. These situations filled with pain and suffering are never easy to deal with, no matter what role you may have in them. When a loved one dies, is dying or is even injured in any way, it is not easy to deal with for anybody in the world.
We don’t often think about the pain a person may be going through or may have recently gone through when we first meet them or when we simply see strangers throughout our day. How many are truly suffering? How many could use a hug? How many need somebody that will just listen to them? It’s strange how relationships are often built upon and strongly enhanced by the sharing of experiences that are extremely painful.
I have no idea why my student told me this story, but I am honored that he shared it with me and the other students in the class. I hope we will have more opportunities to discuss similar stories and continue to build trust and respect.
(pictures were drawn by one of Stephanie’s students)