Yesterday, in our Bible study group, we watched a movie ‘Front of the Class’ about the life of Bradley Cohen, a boy with Tourette’s Syndrome, a neurological disorder that causes people to twitch and make odd sounds out of their control. The movie describes his journey with Tourette’s and his dream to be a teacher – a profession that would be the last that someone with Tourette’s would think of.
You can hear Bradley tell you a little about himself and his life below.
We had been reading and discussing the book of Ephesians and had been challenged by the fact that God has given every person gifts that enable us to serve and love others and build them up. We had been trying to get our heads (and hearts) around the challenge of His intention to display His wisdom to all creation through His people, and what that would mean for us in the light of how we view ourselves, our failures, how God has made us, and His capacity to do through us much more than we can ever imagine.
In Bradley’s talk above, it becomes clear that the same challenge stands forth – whether we will keep our eyes on solely ourselves and our failings, or whether we will start to turn our eyes to serve others…and be transformed in the journey that ensues. In the movie, Bradley talks about how Tourette’s, the very bane of his life, was his greatest teacher.
My dad, Michael John Sundaram, was a teacher before me, and is 90 years old. This year, on Teacher’s Day, I got a call from Shariar Karim, an old student of his who has kept in touch through all these years, who asked me to pass on his respects and affection to my dad. Over the years I’ve heard Shariar talk many times of what my dad has meant to him. Those have been stories of a very, very different teacher to the kind that Tourette’s has been to Bradley.
Several days ago, I got a letter from an old student; this time of mine. The letter was a flash of radiance in its deep respect, affection and appreciation, and I had had absolutely no idea of the impact that one small meeting with her and her mother had had on her, so many years ago. It was humbling, sobering and profoundly encouraging, and made me know with even more clarity that if I had to live ten lifetimes over, I would still be a teacher in every one. I tear up every time I read mails like hers, like the ones Shariar has written to my dad. It’s hard to watch teacher movies because every now and then it gets blurry and I have to wipe my eyes. I teared up watching Pink Floyd’s video of ‘Another Brick in the Wall’ in its terrible scenes of humiliation, insult and anger in the classroom.
I prayed over my student’s letter, not just for her future, but also that I would always rise to be the man God has meant for me to be; to look at Him, and not at myself; to trust that my Father in Heaven believes in me, even when others don’t.
And just like for Bradley, there are and will be those special people in our lives; people who will encourage us to dream and teach us to dream, confront us in love and continue to walk with us, teach us, serve us, believe in us, care for us, and see in us and bring out those things of wonder that no one else sees.
And will we be like that for others?