• Sue Skalicky

$300 and a dead rabbit

I held the recently opened card in my hand as Jaxon ran to his step-dad’s truck to grab a gift he excitedly said he got just for me.

This day was my last Friday of teaching high school journalism and English. It marked the end of my teaching career. Twelve years of teaching, inspiring, equipping, and encouraging young men and women to follow their passions, think critically when faced with challenges, and to never, ever give up.

My husband had started a fire in our fire pit on the driveway and our kids were running around with the neighborhood kids, occasionally stopping to ask when we were going to start making S’Mores. Slowly students began to show up - some in pairs, some dropped off by parents and some stopping by on their way home from work.

Jaxon had come early in the evening, his mom dropping him and a friend off, and enough soda and snacks for at least 50 people. I helped her unload all the goodies and then she gave me a hug, thanked me for encouraging her son, and handed me a card sealed in an envelope.

Later in the evening, as students started to leave, I stepped inside and opened the envelope. In addition to her kind words of thankfulness, there were three one hundred dollar bills. I was blown away! As soon as school got out I was leaving on a mission trip to Ghana and she asked that I use the money to help others just like she said I had helped her son. In shock from the generosity, I stepped back outside to say goodbye to the few remaining students. Jaxon was one of them. When his step-dad pulled up, Jaxon asked me to wait while he ran to get something out of the truck that he wanted to give me. He came back quickly and handed me a grocery store plastic bag, then proudly announced it was a rabbit that he had killed himself. I have never felt more honored.

These gifts couldn’t have been more beautiful. Both given from hearts of great gratitude. These gifts have become a symbol of the richness that God has in store for all of us when we choose to get messy and involved with people. See, when I first met Jaxon he was steeped in the grief of his dad’s recent passing and the day-to-day struggle of battling numerous physical and emotional challenges. Life was not one bit easy for him. And his mom was fighting her own battle of staying in recovery from drug addiction and praying her son would one day catch a break and experience both hope and joy.

Over the past three years, as Jaxon faced his own life on paper he discovered that his writing feeds his soul and gives him hope, and there is joy in publishing his work for others to read and be inspired. As our high school’s newspaper opinion writer, he courageously explored the depths of his pain and what motivates him to live. He consistently grew in his talent, faith, and stature. And I was privileged to walk by his side as his journalism adviser and adult mentor.

So, $300 may be simply a generous monetary gift to some, but for me that $300 was incredibly priceless because I knew it came from a heart where many tears had fallen during hundreds of prayers for her son. It was a gesture of gratitude beyond measure.

And the rabbit? That rabbit was a gift from a life renewed. Hunting is Jaxon’s heaven. He truly offered me the greatest gift in his world. And I was humbled.

I am now stepping away from teaching high school and stepping out as a full time writer and speaker. I want to continue to encourage others to discover both hope and joy, just like Jaxon is learning to embrace as he becomes more familiar and comfortable with his life story.

By tapping into the value of telling the story of your life that you have been called to tell, and choosing to live it out loud, you will become living proof that an abundant, joy-filled life is possible. It is my hope and prayer that through my musings, meditations, and mistakes you will find the inspiration you need to share your own courageous stories.

Welcome to the journey!

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