Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: Sunday School( 10/25/07)
Cactus and Lilies
By Jan Ackerson
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I’m happiest when alone with my books and Miss Sadie, who in the contrary way of her feline ilk chooses to find me charming and irresistible. We are fine companions, Miss Sadie and Yvonne.
Despite my thistly demeanor, I nurture a great love for my church and for its people. Only let them keep their distance, please; I make select friendships on my own terms.
For twenty-two years—ever since I graduated from college—I’ve worked in the church offices. My official title is Administrative Assistant, but ask any of the pastoral staff there, and they’ll tell you the truth: I run that place. The pay isn’t much, but my needs are few. One hardcover book each week. Fresh tuna for Miss Sadie. Warm socks. With those I have learned, like Paul, to be content.
I was in my office a few weeks ago when I read through the names of the proposed adult Sunday School classes for the upcoming quarter. A twinge of irritation flitted across my brow; as usual, there were no classes that appealed to me.
There were classes for married couples, single parents, widows and widowers, young men, young parents, empty nesters, college students, working mothers, newlyweds, and senior citizens. There was a class for people who wanted to determine their personality types, and one for those wishing to do an in-depth study of the genealogies in Numbers. There was even a class for women who wanted to knit booties for preemies. How precious—but I don’t do precious, thank you.
I sighed. Perhaps, just maybe, some small part of me longed for fellowship with people who were…well, like me.
For the briefest moment, I contemplated hiding in the nursery during the Sunday School hour. This notion quickly fled at the mental image of me, holding a squalling infant at arm’s length, my face crinkled with disgust.
Frustrated, I considered spending that time in the church kitchen, helping to prepare coffee for the post-worship fellowship. That wouldn’t do; domesticity and women’s chatter bore me and frankly, I make lousy coffee. At any rate, the problem remained—how to find a class of like-minded people, fellow misfits.
It wasn’t until later that evening, while Miss Sadie purred and kneaded my thigh, that the solution occurred to me. A quick phone call to Pastor Jacoby and his hearty “Of course!” and I went about inventing a Sunday School class that would, I was sure, draw a number of people-defying-categorization.
I added Peculiar People to the list of classes, along with a brief description. An e-mail to the maintenance staff secured classroom B, a smallish room with space for a dozen chairs and an electric teapot.
On Sunday morning, I arrived at 9:45, started the hot water, and wrote a thought-provoking quote on the white board. I looked at my watch…9:52…no Peculiar People yet.
At 10:05, a fellow poked his head into the doorway. I recognized him as one of the maintenance workers and forced a smile. “The room is lovely, thanks,” I managed. He looked around, started to speak, but must have had second thoughts. My throat thickened with disappointment and an unfamiliar sensation: loneliness. No one was going to come.
Ten minutes later, Maintenance Guy appeared at the door again. His name tag told me that his name was Kevin. I didn’t even attempt a smile this time. “You can take the chairs away, Kevin. This class was an unfortunate idea.” I sipped from my cup of Earl Grey.
“Yeah, it might’ve been.” Kevin stepped into the room and glanced at the pale liquid in my cup. “Maybe you’d get a few members if you weren’t threatening to poison them. What’s this, dishwater?”
“I—I…” I had met my match—someone with more thorns than I.
Kevin read my quote and squinted a bit, his head tilted. “‘Prayer is not overcoming God's reluctance, but laying hold of His willingness.’ Martin Luther, huh? Wish I’d had ol’ Marty around to kick my…to help me a year ago.” He flicked off the teapot. “Next week, I’ll bring decent coffee and some doughnuts. Why don’t you put that in the bulletin—you’re the secretary, right?”
“I’m the Admin--” I stopped. For some reason, I didn’t want Kevin to think of me as…bristly. I took another sip of tea, and Lord help me—I think I may have batted my eyelashes.
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