Five-year old Arianna feels beautiful and grown-up in her new purple dress. She picked it out herself. She loves wearing new clothes and being a big girl who is starting to school.
She also feels sick to her stomach. She thinks she's probably just nervous. She already misses her Mom and hasn't even left the house. She runs her hand over her new backpack, worried it will get lost. She skips breakfast at home because she will eat breakfast at school. She waits anxiously by the door of her home. "Hurry, Mom!" she says.
Arianna's mother, Connie, appears, also anxious. They are poor, and she is worried Arianna will be made fun of. She forces a smile on her face and exclaims, "You look so pretty. Are you ready to go to school." She turns her head as tears threaten to fall. Connie will miss her daughter—it's too soon to pass this milestone.
Arianna's angels hover anxiously, waiting for prayer.
Holding hands, mother and daughter wait for the bus to come.
Connie prays desperately, but silently, "God, please take care of my little girl. And please don't let me cry."
Arianna also speaks silently to God, "I'm scared."
The angels receive word from their Boss and go to work.
The bus driver is suddenly filled with excitement and eagerness to greet his new passenger. She is his first stop, and his list says her name is Arianna. "Good morning, Arianna! I'm glad to meet ya'. I'm Mr. Redd."
Arianna is suddenly shy, but pleased. How does this man know her name?
"Come on, I'll show you where to sit. Don't worry, Mom, your little girl is safe on my bus."
Connie feels peace drive away her fears. She smiles and watches the bus drive away. Tears still fall, but it's okay, somehow.
The angels are full of glee and slap each other's backs. One reels away towards the school building. Another heads to the fourth stop on the bus route.
Mr. Redd knows just the right kid to sit with Arianna. He smiles as he watches first-grader Ryan fill Arianna's ears with advice. The bus driver remembers Ryan from last year. Ryan was friends with everyone—even the older kids.
Ryan shows Arianna to her new classroom. He waves goodbye, and Arianna stands in the doorway.
Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Rine, feels compelled to turn to the doorway of her classroom. Her heart leaps in excitement as she sees her first student. This is Mrs. Rine's first day of teaching, and she will remember this child until she dies.
Arianna speaks up, but her voice trembles and tears threaten to fall, "Are you my teacher?"
Mrs. Rine is compelled to comfort this child. She realizes her classroom and demeanor must always be welcoming to children.
Arianna leads the line of kindergarten students to the cafeteria where they will eat breakfast. The head cook is eager to feed these youngsters who didn't have breakfast at home. The first little girl wins her heart when she smiles at the cook and says, "Thank you." The cook is reminded to pray for all the children. She is determined to feed them well.
Mr. Jack, the day custodian, finds a backpack in the hall. It has somehow fallen from its hook. The name on the pack reads Arianna Cole, Kindergarten. He carefully hangs it back up. He imagines how panicked a five-year old would be to find her belongings missing. . .and how heartbroken if things were damaged. He vows to guard the children's possessions.
Miss Grace, the afternoon custodian, is called to clean up a mess in kindergarten. She is tempted to wrinkle her nose in disgust at the smell of vomit. Her desire to speak her disgust is suddenly quenched when a little girl's eyes meets hers. Miss Grace sees the child's humiliation. Her attitude suddenly shifts. Miss Grace acts like it's no big deal and winks at the child. The child's face clears in relief and she tentatively smiles back.
Today is not one of the days the nurse is available, so Arianna is sent to the principal's office to be taken care of. Principal Duffy comes out of her office and kneels by Arianna to discover what is wrong.
She introduces Arianna to Mrs. Gorby, the school secretary, who often fills in for the nurse.
Mrs. Gorby invites Arianna to sit in the child-sized rocker by her desk, an area she has prepared for the children she comes into contact everyday. The secretary has a special love for children who are frightened, ill, poor and bad. She is reminded to get out her laminated copy of "What Would Jesus Do if He Was the School Secretary," a list God had prompted her to make several years ago.
Connie answers the phone, her heart beating madly when she recognizes the number on her Caller ID. She closes her eyes in relief when a soothing voice relates that Arianna is ill, but it's nothing serious, and could she come and pick up Arianna.
But Connie doesn't have a car, and she panics. She has failed her daughter on her first day of school. She prays again, "Oh God, what do I do?"
Mrs. Duffy looks at the child rocking in the small chair and back to the plea on her secretary's face. She smiles and takes the phone and offers to ride Arianna home.
One small life, covered by prayer.
What would have happened:
• if Arianna was ignored by an unconcerned bus driver who's apathy caused her to sit with a bully
• if that teacher, in fear, responded to Arianna with a brusque "sit over there"
• if the cook was impatient and slopped cold food on a tray
• if the custodian ignored the pack on the floor and it was stolen or its contents damaged, especially when money is scarce
• if a snide comment was heard by Arianna about the sickness that fell from her mouth
• if the child was sent to the principal's office and greeted by a towering figure with unkind words and made to sit all alone in despair
What would have happened if Arianna couldn't get home.
As one event leads to another, remember each word, every look, each action and every prayer can change the course of someone's life.
September is the time to make new-year's resolutions. As people of all ages come together in a building called a school, they are changed in some way. Those changes build character.
The choice is ours. Will we build up? Or will we tear down?
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