Let’s support the Mott family

Omari Mott Get Well Fund

Imagine my shock when one of my students told me that his table partner had been shot in the face. “I’m not lying, everyone’s talking about it,” he insisted. I had to wait till the end of the last period to give said student’s mom a call. “Mrs. Mott, I heard from a few students that something happened to Omari over the weekend, so I just wanted to check in to find out if everything is okay,” I said with as much nonchalance as I was able to feign. If it was all a false rumor, I didn’t want to offend her unnecessarily. If it was true, I imagined the worst had happened and I didn’t want to say anything that might aggravate matters.

It turned out to be true. But truly by the grace of God, the bullet had missed all vital organs, and was lodged mere centimeters from his spine. Omari was going to need some facial reconstruction because his jaw had been shattered, but he isn’t paralyzed, and suffered neither brain damage nor loss of vision. Most importantly, he’s alive.

The surgery was successful, and Omari’s going to look good as new in approximately 6 weeks, but the road to recovery is going to be very challenging. For 6 weeks, he will have his jaws wired shut and screwed together, which means no talking and no food or drinks. It also means being fed intravenously, and having a tracheostomy tube inserted into his windpipe to facilitate breathing.

IMG_0190 It’s been heartbreaking to see my most amiable, free-spirited, curious, and creative student in such a state. Imagine what it must be like for his parents. I once showed up after work at 4 PM, and his mom hadn’t eaten anything all day. Amidst all the physical and emotional exhaustion, their love for their son has been most evident. Over the last two weeks, Shelby and Zimberland have been by his side almost 24/7, which is important because Omari wouldn’t be able to call for help should something happen while he was unattended, and have not been able to work since the shooting happened.

In another wonderful bundle of answered prayers, Omari is now eligible to be transferred to a transitional care facility (that typically only admits those aged 18 and above) with 24/7 care, and even an extra bed that would allow his parents to get better rest. The change in environment is going to be welcome change for his emotional and psychological well-being. And there, Shelby and Zimberland would also receive proper instruction on how to attend for Omari when he’s eventually discharged to recover at home.

Brothers and sisters, I ask that you join me in praying for the beautiful Mott family, as well as assisting them financially during this difficult time. You can contribute any amount securely through the Omari Mott Get Well Fund set up by his father. Our contributions will help to subsidize the costs of transitional care and rehabilitation. There, you’ll also find a personal message from Shelby and and Zimberland Mott, two incredible, tireless, and selfless parents.

It’s already a tremendous blessing to be able to teach a wonderful young man like Omari; to see him fighting strong and remaining in good spirits (smiling and giving thumbs-ups) has been truly inspiring. And through this ordeal, God has also granted me the honor of getting to know his amazing parents, who truly embody Christ’s self-giving love.

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Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

Related posts: “It all started with tea.”, My students are helping me recover from depression

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My students are helping me recover from depression

This isn’t something I’ve mentioned on this blog, but I’ve been teaching at a disadvantaged high school on the South Side of Chicago for the last 2 months. It is a job I have fallen in love with. I have also fallen in love with the kids that scared me on my first day at work.

Back in Singapore, I went to schools where the authority of teachers was largely unquestioned, and where the worst that happened to students was failing a class. Going into this job, I knew this would be a whole other world, but it still shocked when I met students who refused to talk to me, who threatened to punch or choke their teachers, as well as those who shared about familial, social, emotional, and psychological problems so deep they left me feeling helpless.

Not to mention I was severely depressed at the time. With a hopelessly pessimistic worldview and a non-existent self-esteem, how was I to navigate these classrooms and hallways? Even my doctor was worried — she recommended that I looked for a different job with a “happy and positive” environment. I did not heed her advice. And by the grace of God, this job that scared me shitless ended up playing a huge role in buoying me toward recovery.

Depression, by its very nature, sucks the sufferer into a kind of chronic and delusional self-absorption. My work forced me to not think of myself, instead focusing on the teenagers that came through the classroom doors each period, and that gradually pushed me out of the cocoon I had spun around myself. In retrospect, all this makes sense in light of the fact that we were created by God to be other-centered, not self-centered. And indeed I have experienced much healing through being pouring myself out for others. “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure– pressed down, shaken together, and running over. ” (Luke 6:38)

I don’t know if my students will ever find this. Maybe I’ll tell them about this blog somewhere down the line. In any case, they’ve been helping me far more than they realize, and the following words are begging to be written.

D.L., you are no longer my student, but you were the first one to get me excited about my job. Your willingness to learn drew me out of my shell. Your enthusiasm and excitability encouraged me to get creative in my teaching methods and re-activated a part of my brain I had long left unused.

C.S., you are one of the most genuine and sincere young men I know. Your sanguine spirit and goofiness inspire me to learn to laugh at myself and my predicaments.

L.L., I wish you would believe me when I tell you that you brighten up my day each time you walk through those doors. And I’m most definitely not coddling you when I tell you that you are incredibly bright and gifted, and that an IEP doesn’t mean otherwise. You ask questions that no other student asks me, notice things nobody else does. With you I have had the deepest and most profound conversations one could ever have with a fifteen-year-old boy. You show me every day that teaching is so much more than imparting academic knowledge.

R.H., I hope you will forgive me for the times I have lost my patience with you. You remain wonderfully compassionate and gentle toward others in spite of the setbacks and grievances you have experienced. You inspire me to continue to grow in humility and generosity.

M.M., I already told you that I see so much of myself in you. Thank you for taking my long lectures on life seriously. You show me that my failures and regrets can be used for the benefit of others. Your growing willingness to receive constructive criticism, and the way you struggle to fight old habits, inspire me to fight my inner demons.

J.F., teaching you brings me great joy. You’re that one kid no teacher could possibly get mad at — you’re polite, respectful, teachable, and yet you have no idea you are all of those things.

O.M., your curiosity and “strange” questions keep me learning and growing alongside you. And I look at you on that hospital bed and I see a living testimony of God’s divine love and protection. Fight on, soldier. I’m fighting right next to you.

I am crying as I type this because I love you all so much and I am praying that you will all be able to look beyond your immediate circumstances and see how precious and important you are — to me and especially to the God who created you and continues to mold you.

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Darkness is as light to you

“I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness;
I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.” 
(Isaiah 42:6-7)

Taken with an iPhone 5s at Goodspeed Hall, University of Chicago