Eighty dollars, eighty cents, and eighty percent—hold those three thoughts.
When Luke left the private school bubble he’d lived in for nine years and started high school I knew it would be a big leap. I never expected it would be like jumping the Grand Canyon. It was. He didn’t crash like Evil Knievel but there were a lot of bumps and bruises. By senior year, however, he had it down and graduated with honors.
When he left for college I knew it would be an equally big leap. First year in, he didn’t crash but it was a fender bender for sure. Where I expected Luke to struggle he succeeded. Where I thought he would excel he didn’t.
Unfortunately, for Luke like a lot of nineteen year olds, there was evidence to suggest he hadn’t made enough effort. If you remember, and I do, in college there’s a lot of downtime and that downtime can be your downfall. It appeared that was the case. So while his coach didn’t put him on probation I did. Of all the classes to fail a one credit personal health and wellness class seemed pathetic. “Really, Luke,” I kept asking. “Really?”
“Mom it was harder than you think,” was all he said.
He took my verbal beating with a stiff upper lip and didn’t make any more excuses. He also accepted the consequence—re-taking the class this summer to earn a grade replacement.
Flash forward a week and Chase starts a one-week intensive version of the class. His academic counselor at the high school had recommended it saying it would be a perfect fit. She thought the format was ideal for her special ed students. It would give them a taste of being successful in a different setting and they could earn the required credit for both high school and college.
Chase was willing to give it go. However, when the syllabus came home along with the print-out of the lecture slides it was clear he was in over his head. This wasn’t a class for struggling learners this was for advanced placement high students trying to get a jump on their college coursework.
I was furious but beginning to see why Luke had struggled. Maybe I’d jumped to conclusions? When Chase’s first homework assignment took me an hour to figure, and two hours to explain I knew Luke had been honest. This wasn’t a no-brainer class. It was hard.
A few days later my confidence was further shattered by a call from student services. Chase was being offered an instructor withdrawal. The instructor didn’t believe he could pass the final exam. She wanted to give us the opportunity to get his tuition back and save his GPA from plummeting.
Shocked by the call I didn’t know what to say. I thought it was a generous offer but too late. Chase had already sat through all the lectures and struggled through the homework. The eighty dollar tuition wasn’t the issue. It was the time and effort and how demoralized he would feel being told his teacher didn’t think he could pass the test.
I couldn’t help but vent which opened the door for the student services coordinator to vent as well. “Eighty percent of students at the college level fail this course,” she said. “It makes my job difficult. I lose more first year students over this course than any other.”
I felt like a terrible mother berating Luke for what I’d assumed was his lack of effort. I felt even worse for putting Chase in a situation where he would fail. But, something kept nagging at me while we talked. It was the pennies. Every day I dropped Chase off at the college I found one or more. He did too and everywhere I went all week I found coins. They felt like poker chips scattered around town. The image that kept coming to mind while we talked was let the chips fall where they may.
I made the command the decision. “Let him take the test,” I said. “We’ll forfeit the eighty dollars and chalk it up to a learning experience.”
Friday morning dropping Chase off I found two more pennies. Now the count was eighty. I laughed at the synchronicity of it. I knew he was walking into a classroom where 80% of the kids were going to fail.
“Okay Lord,” I prayed. “It’s in your hands now.”
“Mom I have something for you,” and handed me a penny, his test, and final grade—a “C”.
Eighty and one.
One kid with God’s help who taught two people an invaluable lesson—Assuming the worst, gives you the least opportunity to see the best in the world. Amen Chase!
“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” (1 Corinthians 13:7 NLT)