Two Turkeys

He strutted into my fifth-period English class late and noticed I stood firmly in the spot across from his girlfriend. He grabbed a chair and swung it over a classmate’s head and plopped it in the narrow space between where I stood and his former seatmate.

I bent down and whispered, “Remember. You don’t sit here any more.”

“Yes I do,” he said. “I can sit wherever I want to.”

“Actually, you can’t,” I said. “You’ve been distracting the people at this table and I moved you yesterday, remember?”

He shook his head vigorously and settled more firmly in his seat. “Please step outside,” I said.

He slammed out the door and I returned my attention to the rest of the students and our opening prayer. After they settled down to do their bell work, I stepped outside to deal with the young man.

“I’ll be quiet if you let me sit in my old place,” he said.

“You already had your chance. You’ve been distracting everyone at the table, especially your girlfriend.”

“Just let me sit in my old place, I won’t bother her.”

“I don’t negotiate with terrorists,” I said.

“You’re just racist. You’re calling me a terrorist because I’m Native American.”

“I’m calling you a terrorist because you’re trying to hold the class hostage to your bad behavior.” I shook my head in disbelief. I hate it when the kids pull the race card. My ire rose. “You’re acting like a two-year-old brat having a temper tantrum. You may return to class when you’ve written a letter of apology to me for your behavior.”

Out in the Cold

He had on shorts and a sweatshirt, and the morning frost had only recently melted off the roof. I didn’t expect him to stay outside the entire class period.

The next day, we had assembly during fifth period, so our contest of wills and boundary setting simmered in the back of my mind. After assembly, he ended up in the cafeteria lunch line behind me. I smiled as he walked in, and he quickly turned his back and proceeded through line with his back to me.

That week, while sitting in church and participating in Bible study, my mind wandered over the events of the past week. I only paid half attention to the leader’s words. “Jesus tells us we have to be like little children to be part of his kingdom,” he said.

I nodded my head, anticipating the regular admonitions to have childlike faith. His next words lassoed my wandering mind and stopped me in my tracks.

“And you all know how little kids act when they get mad at each other. They squabble and fight and twenty minutes later they’re laughing together and their disagreement is forgotten. We need to be like that when we have disagreements.”

I looked around the room, squirming in chagrin. How many of these adults had I disagreed with? How many times had I let my disagreements shade my future interactions with them? I vowed to learn from the children—to squabble and forget and not let my negative experiences solidify like concrete around my heart.

Thanksgiving Dinner

On Monday I bustled around before and after work, preparing a Thanksgiving feast for our faculty family. As I saw the boys during the day, I reminded them to come early and that they could bring a friend. “You guys will need to make sure that ALL of the turkey gets eaten tonight,” I joked. “After all, I’m a vegetarian and I wouldn’t know what to do with the leftovers.”

My husband had to go out of town for a business trip, and so I appointed the first young man to arrive as the greeter, and he let the rest of the kids into the house. I hurried around setting the last dishes on the table and worrying about who would carve the turkey. “Anyone know how to carve a turkey?” I asked the group.

“I’ll look it up on You Tube,” one young man offered.

“I did that already,” I said. “I just wanted to find someone with actual experience.” I looked around the table at the hungry kids and noticed for the first time that one of ‘our’ boys had invited my little ‘terrorist’ from the previous week to Thanksgiving dinner.

He had his hoodie pulled over his ball cap, and he looked a little hesitant—as if he expected me to boot him out of the house. I grinned at him and nodded and then announced, “I’m game. I’ll carve the turkey—if it tastes good, it won’t matter what it looks like, right?” They nodded in assent.

Talking Turkey

I proceeded to butcher the bird. My tools (a bread-cutting knife and serving fork) didn’t work the same way as the implements used in the video. Nevertheless, I managed to fill a platter with meat and set it on the table (I confess to experiencing a bit of squeamishness upon taking off the appendages). After saying grace, I explained which direction to pass the dishes, and why they had more than one fork at their place and that, yes, they could actually use the cloth napkins.

“So what do you guys usually eat for Thanksgiving dinner?” I asked, wishing my extroverted husband was there to keep the conversation going.

“The same things, only we have fry bread!” one young man called out. The silence broke as each eagerly shared what his or her family did to celebrate and they compared clan and tribe differences.

When the conversation lulled, my little terrorist exclaimed, “This is the best turkey I’ve ever eaten! What did you do to it, Mrs. Ojeda?” My head jerked up in surprise. “The seasonings are really, really good.”

I smiled and explained how I rubbed the bird with butter and then patted it with a combination of basil, oregano, sage, rosemary and crushed red peppers.

“I’m going to write that down as soon as I get back to the dorm,” he said.

Turkey Reform

He walked into class the next day and sat in his newly assigned seat. I went over and leaned low and asked, “Do you have the note?”

“What note?”

“The letter of apology?”

“No.” On his own he hopped up and left the classroom.

Fifteen minutes later he came back in. I walked over to show him the page he should turn to in our class book, and he handed me a piece of notebook paper with the words, “I’m Sorry” scribbled on them. “Just kidding,” he whispered, and handed me a folded up note. I stuck it in my pocket and kept on reading whilst he sat down and followed along in his copy of the book.

After school, I pulled the note out of my pocket.

Dear Mrs. Ojeda,
I am sorry for being a little brat in class. I hope we can continue to learn more about reading together this school year. Sorry for being rude and disobedient on Thursday last week. I will do my best for it not to happen again. Last night you gave me turkey, it was delicious and polite of you to do that, so from here on I will return the favor, be kind, honest, and most importantly, respectful.
Your student

I love that I have a God who reminds me to always act with grace, even when my feathers feel rumpled.

God reminds me to always act with #grace, even when my feathers feel rumpled. Click To Tweet

Q4U: Do You have any ‘turkeys’ in your life you need help ‘carving’?

Inspire Me Monday


What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your most inspirational post from the previous week.

2. Vist TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

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Please link back to this week’s post or add the button to your post so that we can spread the inspirational cheer :).

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  1. That note kind of chokes me up. Its so easy to dismiss teenagers and their crazy behavior but you are so right, how do WE act when we have a disagreement? Timely discussion this week.

  2. I read this all the way through with a smile on my face, and tears in my eyes! It’s a wonderful story of grace and how our actions can affect others. Thank you for sharing…would LOVE to join the link-up; but I’m not sure I have an inspiring story right now!! But I will continue to read others’ stories!

  3. I’m visiting from Tell His Story, and I’m so glad I did. I loved this post – so well written and a message of reconciliation, a message we could all use just about now. It was a pleasure to “hang out” here for a bit.

  4. Anita!

    My dear friend. I’m glad to find you on the Loft.

    I loved your story. Not what I expected and pleased with the end: unruffling the feathers can be harder than the ruffling. Your a treaured writer and teacher. Thank you.


  5. Anita,
    This is a beautiful story! I love how you shared your reaction and response so candidly and what a story of redemption that your student realized how immature his actions really were. I just loved this! xo
    Valerie Sisco recently posted…The Myth of MoreMy Profile

  6. I read this post with interest since my daughter is a high school math teacher and often shares stories with us at the dinner table.

    I loved your lesson on carving a turkey. It’s a variation of what my teacher taught me many moons ago, “Kill them with kindness.”
    Jerralea recently posted…Thanks for All Things BeautifulMy Profile

  7. What a lovely post! I was right there in your classroom and right beside the boy with the hoodie. Thank you for sharing this kindness to a difficult relationship and how God worked in and through you to bring peace. We all need this message! Thanks again! Coming to you from The Loft

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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