Teacher shares the beautiful reason a 6th grader rubbed his necklace when talking to people

“It hung on a leather string around his neck. You could tell it was really worn or used.”

a young boy praying

A child holding hands together in a position of prayer

Middle schoolers aren't exactly known for their kindness and thoughtfulness, at least in popular culture. The standard image of tweens is a toxic combo of selfishness, hubris and insecurity that leads to all manner of foolishness.

But as someone who's taught in middle schoolclassrooms and raised three kids through that stage, I can attest this age group gets an unnecessarily bad rap. Sure, middle schoolers can be moody and awkward and immature, but they can also be thoughtful and kind and justice-minded. They are beginning to hone their perception of life's big issues and figure out their place in the world. They usually care more than they appear to and are often more compassionate than we give them credit for.

At this age, we can also see the evidence of a loving upbringing in a kid's character. Such was the case with one of Matt Eicheldinger's students, a sixth grader who always rubbed his necklace with his fingers when he talked to people. When Eicheldinger asked the student why he did it, his answer spoke volumes.

In an Instagram video, Eicheldinger shared that the student was from another country, he was friendly and personable and he always wore a green square necklace, which he would rub whenever he was talking to someone.

One day, Eicheldinger asked the student if he would tell him about the necklace. The sixth grader said it was made of folded paper containing prayers for him from his loved ones—prayers for peace, love and kindness. If you're guessing he rubbed the necklace because he was thinking of those who were praying for him, you'd be half right. The full reason is a beautiful example of compassionate selflessness.

Watch Eicheldinger explain:

It would have been sweet enough if the kid were just drawing on his family's prayers for strength or confidence, but the fact that he was wishing for others to have the good things he himself had experienced is so heartwarming.

"My grandma used to make us those to wear too… it is called a tahveez … thank you for sharing!" wrote commenter eduwaseem. "Brings back memories of my childhood! I don’t wear one anymore but I did as a kid. Never thought to rub it while talking to others though. What a sweet kid to do that! Melts my heart!"

"Sooo beautiful!! I once had a student who made the sign of the cross every time when heard a siren," shared mel_13_mel. "She told me that she would stop whatever she was doing and say a prayer that everyone would be alright, including the emergency workers who might be witness to something really difficult. That always stuck with me. Such a kind, generous and simple thing for an 8-year-old to do."

"Well I wasn’t prepared to tear up this fine Monday morning. What a sweetheart of a young man, 💙" wrote kendrasmom724.

"I am an elementary school teacher. I teach in an area where the majority of the families are immigrants," wrote fullmoonshenanigans. "They have some of the most heart-wrenching, courageous,, & beautiful stories. I’ve always wondered, how can I share these stories with the rest of the world? How can I share so that people can have a better understanding of what immigrants go through, and why? How can I teach these people to have empathy & compassion towards all living beings?"

One way to teach empathy and compassion is through modeling those qualities, and this student gives us a wonderful example of what being a compassionate role model looks like. Kids may learn a lot from us, but as this story shows, we have a lot we can learn from them, too.

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