A silent voice

The situation seemed hopeless.

From the first day he entered my junior-high classroom, Willard P. Franklin existed in his own world, shutting out his classmates and me, his teacher. My attempts at establishing a friendly relationship with him were met with complete indifference. Even a “Good morning, Willard” received only an inaudible grunt. I could see that his classmates fared no better. Willard was strictly a loner who seemed to have no desire or need to break his barrier of silence.

Shortly after the Thanksgiving holiday, we received word of the annual Christmas collection of money for the less fortunate people in our school district.

“Christmas is a season of giving,” I told my students. “There are a few students in the school who might not have a happy holiday season. By contributing to our Christmas collection, you will help buy food, clothing and toys for these needy people. We start the collection tomorrow.”

When I called for the contributions the next day, I discovered that almost everyone had forgotten. Except for Willard P. Franklin. The boy dug deep into his pants pockets as he strolled up to my desk. Carefully, he dropped two quarters into the small container.

“I don’t need no milk for lunch,” he mumbled. For a moment, just a moment, he smiled. Then he turned and walked back to his desk.

That night, after school, I took our meager contribution to the school principal. I couldn’t help sharing the incident that had taken place.

“I may be wrong, but I believe Willard might be getting ready to become a part of the world around him,” I told the principal.

“Yes, I believe it sounds hopeful,” he nodded. “And I have a hunch we might do well to have him share a bit of his world with us. I just received a list of the poor families in our school who most need help through the Christmas collection. Here, take a look at it.”

As I gazed down to read, I discovered Willard P. Franklin and his family were the top names on the list.

David R. Collins

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