by Tanya (Mattioli ) O’Brien
Sometimes life can be difficult and the worries of your friends, family and the world can be too much for anybody to make sense of on their own. A few weeks ago, I found myself overwhelmed at the amount of trouble that seemed to be coming my way and my inability to fix the things that needed to be fixed. In the middle of that, the shooting in Connecticut was the last in a long line of things that made no sense to me. As a teacher, I could not imagine a worse thing to happen.
Unable to stop the sadness for a million other reasons, watching CNN coverage made things worse; wondering where God was in the middle of the mess. I could not turn it off; feeling the need to keep looking.
Suddenly, the name James Mattioli, 6 came across the screen.
Our name is so uncommon, that I could hardly believe my eyes and felt sick at the thought of it. I found out from my father that some of the Mattioli’s had moved to Connecticut when our relatives left Pretoro after the war.
It isn’t a common name, and I couldn’t help but wonder if James was part of our family somewhere way back the line. I kept thinking that even if he wasn’t, he could just as easily have been any one of our little guys in our family and wondered what we do if anything happened to them.
I went back to work that week as sad as ever and received more bad news. I sat at my desk and began to cry about something and was so upset I asked God, out loud, to please just get me through the next class I had to teach and he could help me.
An hour later my principal came to get me and she said something strange had happened and she handed me a bouquet of flowers and a pink card. She said a lady they had never seen before drove up and asked how many primary teachers taught at our school. She told her a number and she came back with flowers and cards, all in plain pink un marked envelopes, and drove away telling the principal to give them to the primary teachers. The woman had brought too many-and there was an extra bunch.I am not a primary teacher but the extra bunch was there and my principal gave them to me.
I opened the card and amazingly, this is what was said: This act of kindness is in loving memory of James Mattioli, whose life was cut short on December 14, 2012.
Now, do your act of kindness and pass this card on to remember him.
So you can say it was some strange coincidence that she showed up with the flowers, or that I’d get the card with James’ name on it. I checked every envelope in the school and each person got a different name.
Nobody knew how much James’ name had bothered me besides my sister, and she had not done it. Sometimes over thinking things with reason is what sends us down a black path so we can’t see light that is right in front of us.
I am convinced that God is present when He seems most absent and stays with you in the darkest places. I also think that angels come in all shapes and sizes, and one came to see me that day to let me know I shouldn’t worry.
God is watching everything and is with you right in the middle of your problem and knows the way out. You just have to trust Him.
SO FOR JAMES MATTIOLI....I challenged every Mattioli (and our friends) to go do something kind for somebody else. In our acts of kindness we are actually showing others God’s compassion and love. Many of the Mattioli’s have started to pay it forward. Our hope is that everybody does the same. I am honoured to hear that the FILO has chose Italian women in Education as their theme this year. I feel both proud of being Italian and a teacher, congratulations FILO.
Tanya O’Brien is a gifted educator. She inspires students to want to learn, parents to collaborate, and she encourages herself and her peers to try new things — to be better teachers tomorrow than they were today.
Tanya knows that students learn differently and she looks for clues to see when a student has become discouraged. Recently she took a student struggling with addition to visit the grocery store. This stressed student was able to practice addition in a positive and motivating environment and achieved success. The student now thinks math is cool.
Tanya lives by the ‘I caught you being good’ motto and in doing so motivates students to be the best that they can be. She is quick to call or e-mail parents to report student successes. So a call from their teacher no longer means bad news for the child, in fact it can be a shining moment. Tanya is an educator who loves her job and it shows.