Pranks, Prom and Unbelievable Pain

Dear Cornerstone Family,

The past weeks have brought our Cornerstone family so much joy.  Our seniors filled "prank week" with Nerf guns, office rearranging (my furniture turned upside down), teacher cars wrapped in cellophane and decorated with bows and balloons, and some kind of canned odor that was sprayed liberally in any room where I was scheduled to be.  (I spent half the day thinking this dead rat scent was coming from me.)  The teachers added to the fun by retaliating against the seniors with a well-timed super soaker water gun attack in front of the entire high school lunch crowd!  There was more laughter in our building than I have ever heard at Cornerstone.

 This was followed by preparation for our Dinner and Dance night -- otherwise known as prom.  Our administrative offices were stuffed with donated prom dresses from friends and acquaintances.  It was so exciting to see the Cornerstone ladies and their moms find the "perfect" dress and to see our teaching staff rally to make this night safe and memorable for our high school students.  I saw more than one dress altered by various Cornerstone staff members between their otherwise overbooked duties.
On the morning of the big dance, I had an extra bounce in my step in anticipation of the fun night that lay ahead for our students (and my wife, who loves to dance).  As I walked in the school, before I even had time to get to my office, I was handed a phone with these words, "<unnamed student's> father was shot and killed last night, and his mom would like you to talk to <the student>."  As I grabbed the phone, I recalled how the day before this very student had run down the hall to hug me before he left, wrapping his arms around me while I was trying to hustle the older students out of the building.  I was overwhelmed by the sobbing of the mother who told me through tears that her son had learned of his father's murder when he saw it on the evening news - "Can you talk to him, Mr. Max?"  
The bounce in my step gone, the joy of the coming evening vanished, the thrill of prank week a distant memory, I tried in vain to pull the right words for this moment for which I was so completely unprepared.  I think I managed to say, "I love you," and that I would pray for him -- in fact, maybe I did pray for him right then, but maybe not.  I honestly don't know what I said or did, and I can only pray now that God supplied what he needed to hear, even if I didn't say the words myself.  
When he put his mom back on, I offered support and tried to conjure up words of encouragement.  As I hung up the phone, with a sense of inadequacy and complete exhaustion, I put one foot in front of the other and prayed that I could keep moving my feet through a full day of school and into the evening's prom. 

 The prom was a wonderful time - students and staff alike dressed to the nines, laughed and danced together.  Since then, we've celebrated the graduation of our 2016 class and look forward to sharing more about their accomplishments and dreams.  Yesterday, I promoted giggling kindergartners into the 1st grade with pride.  

The joy of this place continues, even as the heartbreaking tragedies in our students' lives weigh heavy.  Please Lord, keep me upright, restore my bounce and be with this student, his family, our school, and our city....

Derrick Max
Executive Director
202-575-0027 Ext. 104