Though she barely resembled the scruffy girl from a dozen years ago, Lynn recognized the young lady standing before her.
“I still remember you telling me that I could do anything I wanted. You always said you believed in me.” Misty played with the zipper of her jacket, shifting her weight from one foot to the other. She looked into Lynn’s eyes and continued.
“I got kicked out of school in grade ten ‘cause of stuff I was doing. But I thought about you, Mrs. Watson, and decided I could still graduate if I worked real hard. They let me back in school and here I am.” She shrugged her shoulders and giggled softly. “The ceremonies are tonight. It’d be great if you could make it.”
Lynn, overcome with emotion, whispered “I wouldn’t miss it,” gave Misty a hug and, with tear-filled eyes, watched her leave the restaurant. Her thoughts wandered back in time as she went to make more coffee. Those four years in the “force” had changed her for life…
She hadn’t been looking for a job but heard of the opening, applied and was accepted in the same hour. Unlike a police force, the school didn’t require any special qualifications, fitness trials, aptitude tests or physicals. Just a desire and commitment to uphold the law. Her skills as a parent, in mediation and conflict resolution, proved to be an asset.
Prior to the job, her life had consisted of housework, laundry and bible studies with other stay-at-home moms. They talked of loving the world as God did and challenged each other to reach out to others. Now she would have her chance. As one of five playground- police, she was hired to enforce the school laws, ensuring safety was maintained through the kindergarten to grade seven classrooms and outside during lunch break.
“I feel like a cop,” one of them had shouted as they ran to the far end of the field to break up a fight, one day. After that they affectionately referred to themselves as “The Dayton Elementary Detachment”.
Lynn met Misty on her patrol assignment to the primary wing. As she walked into Mrs. Abbott’s grade one class that first day, Lynn noticed a red-faced youngster, head to head with the frazzled teacher.
“I will not tolerate your disobedience any longer, young lady.” Mrs. Abbott turned on her thick black heels and marched toward Lynn as the seat bound student stuck her tongue out in defiance. The equally red-faced teacher stomped through the doorway, pretending to pass a baton to Lynn. “Be firm” was her only suggestion.
Later, when they were all outside, Lynn observed Misty pushing her way into a cluster of pretty first-graders, only to be told off by the “leader” and then face the backs of the group as they closed Misty out.
Lynn remembered seeing rejection flash over the young girl’s dirty face, quickly replaced by a look of anger and mischief.
Attempting to circumvent further trouble she had extended her hand in invitation.
“Misty, how ‘bout helping me patrol the playground?”
All these years later, Lynn still remembered feeling the love of God stir within her as the six-year-old placed a grubby, nail-bitten hand in hers.
Before they had gone two steps Misty asked, “Can I hold your whistle, Mrs. Watson?” and as she reached to take it, tripped over her two-sizes-too-big shoes. Lynn bent to help her and was assailed by the odor of urine and cigarette smoke on her clothes.
“Lord, help me,” Lynn prayed as her stomach turned. And He had.
Misty had become Lynn’s whistle-carrier and steady partner, holding hands as they patrolled the playground, hippity hopping beside her and talking about anything and everything.
Periodically, Lynn bought clothes and shoes for Misty, giving them discreetly through her teachers. She had prayed that the love of God would transfer through her small actions, that someday Misty would discover her own need for Jesus and truly realize the value she held in His eyes as well as Lynn’s.
“You coming with that coffee or do I have to serve myself?” A grating voice pulled Lynn out of her reminiscing. She looked over to see a sour-faced regular customer, with hands on her hips, tapping her foot impatiently.
Lynn smiled. These people might not be breaking any laws, but they sure needed a generous portion of Jesus-with-skin-on.
“Be right with you, Ma’am.”
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