Ashley's Rainbow

Ashley's Rainbow

A Story by Vicki Phipps

I believe that rainbows are God’s way to say, "A miracle is on the way." I learned it was true on a gloomy day in the spring of 2004. I’d been a special education teacher for a very long time and accustomed to diverse learning styles. Some of my students were intellectually challenged, but most had disabilities that were less obvious. More often than not, they hated school and had problems with following rules. My high school literacy class was filled with teens who had what the system described as, "special needs." By then, I thought I’d seen everything, but Ashley’s needs exceeded my expertise.

 

In spite of being a bit dyslexic, Ashley was highly intelligent. She loved to read but her choice of books might be, "How to Murder Brutally." She was the angriest girl I’d ever seen. Announcing her essence to the world, she wore a T-shirt that said, "I don’t discriminate. I hate everyone."

 

Other than her bright pink hair, which stuck straight up in the air, she wore nothing but black. Her clothes were baggy and I wondered why, but I suppose it was to hide the girl inside. Every day upon entering my class, she’d fill the room with doom and gloom. Throwing her books on the floor, she’d slump in her seat and ignore the world. I wondered how long her anger could last as she mumbled about how she hated my class.
I’d pass out the journals when class began and instructed the kids to write a few lines. As a way to motivate them, I’d say they could write about anything that went through their minds. The result often left me shocked and surprised, but Ashley’s words of hate took my breath away. She hated the class, the school, the students, the teachers, the town and everything else. Most of all, she hated herself.

 

 

This went on every day, so needless to say, 2004 was a very long year. I was relieved with nine months went by and the last day of school finally arrived. Still, it was sad to realize that I’d never once seen Ashley smile, so I prayed for a way to make the last day count. "I’ve done all I can, but I need a plan." With hopeful intentions I asked for divine intervention.

 s going to be a bright, bright sunshiny day."

After grading the journals the night before, I wrote a personal note in each of them. Most were a short but sweet good bye, but in Ashley’s book, I took my time. Going out on a limb, I boldly wrote, "Before the last day of school is done, I intend to see you smile, just once."

 

That night when I went to bed, thoughts of Ashley swirled through my head. "What would make her smile," I asked myself? No answer came, but I fell asleep and began to dream of more peaceful things.

 

When morning arrived, it was raining outside, but I was surprised when the radio played a favorite song of mine. "I Can See Clearly Now," is a song from my past by Johnny Nash. It’s upbeat rhythm always made me smile immediately.

 

"Here is that rainbow I’ve been praying for. It’s going to be a bright, bright sun shiny day." Somehow I knew that God used the tune to give me a plan in the mysterious way that only he can. I vowed on the way to work that day while driving through the pouring rain, "I’ll do whatever it takes to put a smile on Ashley’s face."

I greeted the kids when class began as they came inside and passed out their journals one last time. By then they’d written enough to fill a book. Some of the students seemed pleased to see that they’d written their autobiography, but Ashley only sighed and rolled her eyes when she read my promise to make her smile.

 

"Don’t hold your breath," I heard her say.

 

I didn’t, of course. Instead, I prayed. "Please take Ashley’s dark clouds away and send a rainbow for her today."

 

Announcing to the kids that since it was the last day of school, we’d listen to music instead of work. They seemed pleased, until I explained that the music they listened to didn’t comply with the rules. "I brought a whole stack of songs from my past," I said. They whined at that, but I encouraged them to open their minds to the songs of my time.

 

We began with the song, "Where Have All the Flowers Gone," and I explained what was going on in Vietnam. Mixing a bit of history in, I played some Bob Dillon songs to them. John Lennon sang, "Just Give Peace a Chance," and the Carpenter’s sang about love and romance. I hoped Joan Baez would sooth Ashley’s soul, but she only rolled her eyes as she moaned and groaned. The James Taylor song, "You’ve Got a Friend," seemed to disgust her most of all.
The kids really liked Janice Joplin, and a few became Jimmy Hendrix fans. I told them about my favorite bands and I even played that silly song, "Jeremiah the Bull Frog."

 

Some of the kids laughed, but Ashley still looked sad and mad. Even so, I held onto hope. Knowing I’d saved the best for last, I made an announcement to the class.


"Pay attention please," I said. "The last song I’ll play is magical, some say." One of the kids asked me why, so I tried to explain. Pointing out of the window, I said, "This song will take those dark clouds away." Of course, it had been raining for days, but I believed a rainbow would show up soon. I promised them that when the song came to an end, they’d be happier than when they’d come in.

 

I knew the promise would take a miracle to keep when Ashley’s dark eyes looked at me. Bending down to her, I said, "Even you will be smiling before you leave." Ashley only glared at me, but the other kids looked on curiously. I heard one say, "This is something I’ve got to see."
 

 

An upbeat rhythm began the song and I began to sing along. "I can see clearly now. The rain is gone. I can see all obstacles in my way. Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind. It

 

It’s hard to explain, but you see, a feeling came over me. Set free from doom and gloom, I began to dance around the room and a few of the kids began to dance too. Soon, we were having a ball and a crowd began to form in the hall. Up and down the isles, some of the kids clapped to the beat while some only laughed in disbelief. Even the rough and tough kids joined in, but Ashley remained unmoved as I sang and danced around the room. I must admit that I felt like a fool, but I vowed to do what I knew I must do.

 

 


Bending down to meet her eyes, I dramatically reached up to the sky. "Look all around, there’s nothing but blue skies," I sang. Ashley refused to smile, so I danced back down another isle. The others were laughing out loud and looked at me incredulously, the teacher singing and dancing dramatically. With faith that came from a spirit inside, I focused on the goal in my mind. With as much determination as my humiliation would allow, I still believed that Ashley would smile.


 

The last verse came too soon, so I climbed up on top of my desk and raised my arms in the air as I sang the final words. Holding them there for as long as I could, I prayed the magical song had worked.
The class erupted in cheers, along with the crowd in the hall, as I made a flamboyant bow. Lifting my head to see her face, I’m sure I saw a spark of light, but Ashley never smiled.

 

 


The final bell of the last day rang, and I said good bye to the kids that day. Most stopped to give me a hug, but Ashley simply slipped away. I closed the door to the room, feeling I’d failed the girl, so full of gloom. Why did I think the pain on her face could be erased by a silly song? Still, I noticed the rain was gone. Gazing out of the window, I could clearly see a rainbow forming vividly. I prayed that Ashley had seen it too.


The teachers had a meeting that afternoon, but an hour later when I returned, a small vase of flowers had mysteriously appeared on my desk. When I opened the card to see who’d left the sweet surprise for me, I could not believe my eyes. Below a hand drawn happy face, once again Ashley’s words took my breath away.

 

"Thanks for making me smile today."

 

 

A moment to ponder . . .

 

I’m grateful to say that I caught a glimpse of Ashley’s rainbow that day. It seemed to be God’s way to say, "A miracle is on the way for Ashley today." Because of the covenant between God and she, I believe that beneath every rainbow I see, stands Ashley, smiling happily.

© 2008 Vicki Phipps


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this is the first story I've read here. I don't read them because they are too long. I was drawn to you, drawn to this story and so I buckled down and read it. This is beautiful. I love the way you use faith and hope and making a difference. It's even nicer that in this, i get to see a piece of your heart. Now you put a smle on my face, today, and you madea difference.....
always,
Don

Posted 8 Years Ago


The miracle with in all of us is what surprises most of us. Courage of faith and the answer to a pray carry more resolutely the wish that a door can be opened if we just turn the door knob. I see things differently because I am different. Within all of us is a dungeon of disspair and only the ones of us that want for others the good of Gods wonders can a key be found. Never lose the want to be the keeper of the key. "The Bard"

Posted 10 Years Ago


a very heartwrenching incredible story. one that wins awards and breaks hearts. the world is full of simple miracles made by angels like you. thanks for sharing, huge hugs mary

Posted 11 Years Ago


What a beautiful story, with such underlying sadness for a child. The title drew me in as Ashley is my daughters name and reading it this could have been about her when she was small................so touching that you touched anothert childs life and that you cared enough to want to make her smile.

Posted 12 Years Ago



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Added on February 6, 2008

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Vicki Phipps
Vicki Phipps

TX



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Writers Cafe had been a Godsend to me, until recently. I'll bet there are a few who agree with me. There was a time when I'd write on this site day and night. I probably posted more than I knew I ha.. more..

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