the story of how luke was not really “okay”

It is not “natural” for males to be fierce or cruel. They are socialized to exhibit fierceness and imperviousness to pain. It is natural to be vulnerable, caring and compassionate, and when we welcome who they are, we begin the teaching of non violence.  Empathy is the key….

…and so our story starts…


The children had spent a busy morning painting, writing in their personal journals, building in the block room, sorting coins, being read to, and then coming together to sing as a group. They had gone out to the yard to have snack, to run about, to dig in the sand, take care of their garden, and to involve themselves in games of fantasy and danger.

I was on the yard with them, tying shoes, helping, soothing, laughing. It was a sunny day and the feeling tone was pleasant and productive.

Suddenly five year old Luke came careening around the corner, his face flushed with excitement and glee. His feet tripped over a bump in the sidewalk and he came crashing down, hitting his chest on the wood of a low garden edging. I was not more than five feet from him. The force of his chest hitting the wood made a loud thumping sound as I readied myself to help him. The force of his fall was notable.

As I approached him I saw his face change from fear, to twisted pain. And then his face went blank for just a second, and I saw him set his mouth in a grim line and jut his chin upward. He pushed himself up to his feet as he stated quickly, loudly and repetitively that he was okay. He held his hands up toward me as a signal that I read as wanting me to stop and not help him.

I got down on my knees in front of him, looking fully into his face. He repeated that he was okay.

I told him so softly that he didn’t have to be okay. His eyes started to fill silently with tears. His lips began to quiver as another child who was close by agreed and said he thought that must have hurt. Luke nodded at this, and tears began to trace down his cheeks. He allowed me to touch his shoulders at this point, as I looked for bruises with my eyes and a free hand. I repeated very softly that he did not have to be okay, and that all people deserved to get comfort. For a moment, I thought he might let himself dissolve completely, but he didn’t. I told him he could go inside to our cozy peace area to take care of his feelings privately, which he did.

Later that day, another boy fell, and Luke was there. I heard him tell the boy that he didn’t have to be okay and that it was okay to cry. I saw Luke with his arm around the other boy, gently patting him as the boy let some tears go and got some comfort.

excerpt from Protectors and Warriors/clonergan  2003


About cthebean

Educator, musician, social justice activist...and now a blogger. Children deserve unflinching support from adults.....they deserve nothing less. All kids . Everybody's kids. Everywhere.
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3 Responses to the story of how luke was not really “okay”

  1. Christine, I imagine that story almost wrote itself as you recaptured the beauty of Luke’s growth. I might also add (though you hardly mention it) how important it was to have you there, immediately providing the space in which that growth could occur.

    This weekend was The Oaks campout and I saw kids growing together every day. Your name was on many people’s lips and your spirit very much present.


  2. cthebean says:

    Reblogged this on and commented:

    If we want people to learn empathy..we have to have understanding and empathy for them…..


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