She longed for a child of her own--an answer to her fervent daily prayer.
- Posted on Oct 28, 2008
He was 16, maybe 17, almost grown, but asleep he looked as sweet as a little boy, with his rumpled clothes, his head pillowed on his arms. One problem: He'd fallen asleep in my classroom. On the first day of school, no less.
I tapped his shoulder. "Hey, David—rise and shine!"
I didn't want to embarrass him, but I couldn't let him snooze through 11th-grade American history, either.
Slowly he lifted his head and sat up. "Sorry, Mrs. Dorman. I'm just really tired."
"Class is almost over, so hang in there, all right?"
I let my gaze linger on him. Every year there seemed to be one student who needed more from me than the rest. Maybe David's the one this year, I mused.
The bell rang and the kids hurried out. I had some time before my next class, so I stopped by the teachers lounge. My colleagues were all gathered around one teacher who'd just announced she was expecting.
"That's wonderful," I said, giving her a hug. I meant it too. But inside, my heart ached. When, Lord? I wondered. When will it be our turn?
My husband, Scott, and I really loved kids—I loved teaching high school and Scott, a fire captain, worked with the Explorers, a firefighting program for teenagers—and we were ready to have our own. More than ready.
For years we'd been asking the Lord for a baby, hoping for another Dorman to fill our extra bedroom. Recently we'd started fertility treatments. So far, all I got was a rash that wouldn't go away. Probably brought on by the stress of trying to conceive, my doctor said.
"Be patient," Momma said. "In time, God will answer your prayers."
How I wanted to believe that. Standing there in the teachers' lounge I reminded myself to be grateful for all that he'd given me. My husband. My work. I pushed the fertility problems to the back of my mind. It was a new school year, and I had my students to think about.
Especially David. I tried the usual teacher's tricks for getting through to a student. I stood by his desk while I talked to the class, called on him regularly, asked him to pass out papers. Still, I couldn't tell if they were working until a few weeks into the semester. One day, just after the last bell, David poked his head in my classroom door. "Hey, Mrs. Dorman!"
"Hey there, David. What's up?"
"You need me tomorrow? To pass out papers or whatever..."
"I'd appreciate that, David." He flashed me a smile and stepped into the room. "You've been doing better in class," I said.
He shrugged. "Yeah, but it's hard. I've been working till 11. And the other night I slept in my car."
"You did what?"
"It's okay," he said quickly. "I'm staying at a friend's house now."
"What about your parents?"
"Ever since they split up, I've been living with my dad. His girlfriend and me, we don't get along too well. She threw me out."
Kids exaggerate sometimes. Years of teaching taught me that. So I checked out his story with the school counselor. She confirmed it. In fact, Family Services had been called.
That sense I'd had about David from the very first day of school grew stronger. Lord, I prayed, I'm here if you need me to touch this boy's life. But I had to be careful not to get too involved. My professional career could be at risk if David's parents objected.
That evening over dinner I told Scott about my problem student. "Do you think David could join the Explorers?"
"It'd give him some structure, since he'd have to keep decent grades to be in the program," Scott agreed. "I'll get him an application."
David really took to the Explorers. And to Scott. One crisp Saturday afternoon that fall I came home from grocery shopping to find the two of them in our driveway, tinkering with David's old Chevy.
"I'm making roast beef for dinner," I told David. "Want to stay?"
"That'd be great, Mrs. Dorman."
"Okay, then. Remember to wash up before dinner."
Playfully, Scott pulled David's baseball cap down. "And remember, David, to take off your hat before we say grace."
David got to be such a regular at our table it felt natural to save a place for him at Christmas. Scott and I picked up some clothes for him. Christmas Eve I wrapped them up and set them under the tree. This must be what the holidays are like when you have kids, I thought wistfully.
David arrived, carrying a present so huge we could barely see him. "Merry Christmas!" he called out.
"Gee, David, sure you couldn't find a bigger box?" Scott laughed.
"Hope you like it," David said, watching our faces as we opened the box and dug through packing peanuts.
Inside, a lovely clock. "Like it? I love it!" I said, and gave David a hug. How hard he must have worked and saved for this!
At dinner I couldn't help adding silently to the grace, Lord, David has so much to give. Can't you find him a family who will love him back?
It just didn't seem meant to be. That spring there was a death in the family David was living with, and he had to move back in with his dad. No telling how long that would last.
Then my mystery rash flared up, this time with a high temperature and rapid heartbeat. I was admitted to the hospital for tests. They revealed I had Hodgkin's disease. I know this might sound strange, but I wasn't that worried. I knew Momma had our whole church praying for me. I was more concerned that the chemo would rule out any chance of having a child.
And, of course, I worried about David. He came to the house, asked my mom if there was anything he could do, but because of my weakened immune system, I wasn't permitted any visitors except family. Scott relayed messages, and I got reports from other teachers. Troubling reports. David's grades were taking a nosedive. Lord, I prayed all that long, hard summer, watch over David until I can get back to school.
It wasn't until fall, when I was strong enough to teach again, that I got to see David. I was tired after that first full day, but I made time after school to sit with David in my empty classroom. "I'm sorry you got sick," he said softly. "I really messed up last semester. It doesn't look like I'll even get to graduate..." his voice trailed off.
"If you're willing to put in the work, David, maybe we can do something about that." He brightened, and I had an idea how to give him another boost.
I talked to Scott. "Parent-student night is next week. Could you go with David, Honey? He won't have anyone there, and he's so discouraged about school. It would mean a lot to him."
"It would mean a lot to me too," Scott said. "Besides, he's doing well in Explorers. I want him to keep his grades up so he can stay in the program."
At the end of parents' night, Scott brought David by my classroom and sat him down. "If you want to stay in Explorers, maybe be a firefighter one day, you've got to work as hard in school as you do at the firehouse. Blowing off homework, sleeping in class, that's not acceptable."
David sat up straight. "Yes, sir," he said. Even though Scott was giving him a real dressing-down, the kid was enjoying it. Enjoying knowing what the rules were. Of course, I thought. He just wants to know what's expected of him.
Scott and I exchanged glances. Was it just me, or were we acting like we were more than his old history teacher and his Explorers supervisor?
Looking out my classroom window one day, I saw David in the parking lot. He was with a bunch of kids. The wrong kids. Kids I knew had been in trouble, some of them in real trouble. Yet there was David, trying to fit in. My heart sank. I should have known it wasn't going to be as easy as all that. Lord, no...
That night I spoke to Scott. "He's running with the wrong crowd. I'm scared we'll lose him!"
"Look, I've been thinking," Scott said. "We've got that extra bedroom. Why don't we have David come stay with us?"
We were probably crazy to even consider it. That's what Momma would say. Would David live by our rules? What if I got sick again? What if we got into an argument one day and he just up and left? What would I do then?
Scott and I prayed about it, but we couldn't be sure. We invited David over. Scott began, "David, we want to know if you'd like to come live with us—"
"Yes!" David didn't even let Scott finish.
We sat staring at each other. Then Scott chuckled. "Maybe you should think about it. There'll be rules. Discipline—"
"Fine by me," David said eagerly. "I need rules."
David's father agreed to the move. It didn't take David long to move his old beanbag chair and TV set into our spare bedroom and settle in.
It took me a couple weeks longer to work up the nerve to tell my mother. "Remember that boy David, who asked about me when I was sick? Well, he needed a stable home, so now he's living with us."
"Robin, you don't know how many people have been praying for you to have a child," Momma said. "We all thought God was going to bring you a baby, but here he's gone and sent you a big boy."
It was true.
One day about six months after he moved in, David made a surprise announcement. "I know you can't adopt me because I'm 18. But I wanted it to be official." He handed us a signed certificate. "I had my last name legally changed. Now I'm David Dorman."
Maybe David's the one, I'd thought when I saw him asleep in the back of my classroom the first day of school. He turned out to be the one, all right. The other Dorman we'd been longing for to fill our home—and our hearts.