and why almost 30 years later it continues to haunt me.
So if you read my last blog you know that the mission of not only my store but also my life centers around accepting and valuing each other. I’ve often said that there are more important things than profit and that pursuing God’s will for my life is THE most important thing I try to do every day. Hopefully Justin’s story will give you some insight into why.
My first year teaching was 1991-1992. I was teaching special education in a self-contained elementary classroom for kids with severe emotional and behavioral disorders. I was in a VERY small school system in Northeast Georgia. There were 8 boys in my class. No girls. Because the school was right off the town square, we would walk downtown once a month and get our hair cut, visit the police and fire stations, and eat lunch at McDonalds. Those were the “good ol’ days” when I had the freedom to teach these young men ages 5-11 life-skills, coping-skills, and strategies to handle difficult situations. One of my students was Justin. He was 9. This blond-haired, blue-eyed child had the sweetest spirit. His problems were emotionally-based and borne out of a lack of nurture in my opinion. He wanted to please his teachers. He wanted to do a good job and “be a good boy”. Justin had hope. He could overcome. He had potential.
One morning in the late fall Justin didn’t come to school. Once the day started and the other kids were settled, literally as I was picking up the phone to call his home a police officer came to my door. The officer told me that Justin died in a fire the night before. His mom and her boyfriend were high and smoking and caught their single-wide trailer on fire. His mom managed to get her infant daughter out of the trailer. She also managed to get two small dogs out of the trailer. She didn’t get Justin. He was gone.
To this day, I wonder what Justin would have become. He had hope. He had potential. He didn’t deserve to die at 9 years old. He just wanted to be accepted, loved, and valued. While I am no longer involved in education and I work with young women, I think of Justin often. Regardless of her circumstances, I have the opportunity to accept and value every young woman that walks through the doors of Frills. For them, for me, and for Justin. Encouraging these young women to believe in themselves, love themselves, and ACCEPT and VALUE themselves IS more important than profit. It continues to help me heal and share the sweet spirit Justin had every day.