Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Pastor (11/30/06)
TITLE: Small Brown Paper Sacks
By Noreen Ophoff
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In the classroom, each had the treat they always had on the First Friday of every month, a glazed doughnut set on a brown paper towel. Sister passed out little glass bottles of chocolate milk.
The day went fast with kids trying on costumes and mothers sewing hems. The thoughtful teachers had puzzles and games all around the rooms for the pupils to keep busy, even colored chalk to draw on the blackboards. Best of all, there would be NO HOMEWORK this weekend. Each child was given a white strip of paper with purple mimeograph ink on it that read:
REMINDER: EACH CHILD MUST BE IN THEIR DESK AT 6:30 PM
SHARP!!!! PROGRAM BEGINS AT 7:30PM.
By 6:20 that evening, cars were traveling along the country road, all making the turn at the crossroads, driving straight to the steepled church on the hill.
Costumes and props were ready for kids who had memorized poems, songs and skits. Sister Therese blew a loud whistle and everyone formed a single file line to walk quietly across the gravel parking lot, into the church basement. Carol noticed the basement was newly painted a creamy color with dark green trim.
Seventh grader, Brian, started the event with his trumpet solo of O Holy Night, the stirring emotions of the song filling the room. Evie was dressed as Little Bo Peep, in a frilly pink dress. Her Dad brought a little lamb from their farm who stood close to Evie while she recited the nursery rhyme.
Everyone held their breath as Tim and Jack came out dressed as hobos. They performed their song with all the actions, just as Sister Therese had taught them, and they didn't fool around at all.
Nila and Mary wore yellow cardboard sunbonnets and were supposed to say a poem together and sing a song about sunshine. Mary was struck by stage fright, and uttered not one word. Nila elbowed her a couple times, to no avail, so she did the whole thing by herself.
Leon and Bob juggled red balls. Diane sang Greensleeves. Seventeen girls from grades three to eight did a German folk dance to honor Father Bolte. They wore black skirts, white blouses, and red ribbons streamed in their hair. Everyone else formed a choir and sang the favorite songs of the nuns and Christmas carols.
At the end of the program, after the applause and the thank yous, the students filed past gentle Father Bolte. He gave each of them a small brown paper sack of Christmas hard candy.
Few people ever knew who provided the bags of candy, and the doughnuts and milk, and made sure there were the correct number of bottles of milk.
The old oak pews in the church were dusted every week, and revarnished twice a year. Steps were shoveled or swept. Whatever needed painting, no janitor was needed, Father Bolte did all the tasks folks would only notice if they weren't done. He mimeographed the school notes, often staining his hands with the permanent ink. He conducted two Masses every Sunday, and one every morning. He visited the sick, came to the dying, listened to the grieving. Sometimes on a Spring day he played softball with the 8th grade boys, on the acre ball diamond. It was common to see him kneeling to play marbles with first grade kids too. What a wild, laughing ride on the merry-go-round when he came to push!
Often the soft touch of a hand would rest upon a head, cup a little face. This gentle leader listened to tales of a new puppy or a bike ride taken. Here was a man who was an integral part of the lives of his church family. He was their Shepherd, Guardian, Protector, loved by all.
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