When Mrs. McGreavy walked into our fifth grade class, we knew something was different.
She acted as if she’d known us forever. Not like she was our buddy or anything, but like she really knew us, inside and out. Before she handed out books, said “Good morning,” or anything else teachers usually do on the first day of school, she marched to the back of the room and said, “Wilson Collis, give me that paper wad you were planning to throw at Maggie Greer.” Wilson’s eyes got as big as the rest of him and for once in his life, he didn’t argue. And for once in my life, I almost felt sorry for him, even though I was the Maggie Greer he’d been planning to hit.
Mrs. McGreavy had our attention. The whole room got as quiet as the library on a pretty afternoon. Then she asked how many enjoy games. Every hand went up.
“Good. Then everyone will enjoy this year.”
It was like one of those Sim games: create a city, create a zoo, create a government. Only it was all of them, all at the same time. As a class, we were going to spend our year creating a planet from start to finish.
World building is a lot more work than you might think. You have to figure out a lot of things right from the beginning: how long the days are going to be, what kinds of animals there are, how many people will live where. But the work wasn’t what bothered us; it was the way things changed.
It started with little stuff, like when Wilson decided that every restaurant on our planet HAD to give you extra food to take home. And before we knew it, every restaurant in town was giving us a bag as we went out the door. The first time it happened, I told Mom and Dad how strange it was—the way they looked at me, you’d think I had three heads.
Dad (laughing): “How else would it be, Mags? We have to have something to eat at home! Besides, it’s the law.”
Mom (concerned): “Are you sure you’re feeling all right, dear?”
It was like that for everybody. Our families, our friends, anyone who wasn’t in Mrs. McGreavy’s class, they all just accepted whatever happened as the way things had always been.
So we learned early on to think our decisions through. After someone got tired of trudging to school in the Thanksgiving snow, for example, our planet became all summer, all the time. Or at least our part did. What we didn’t realize was that our power had limits: for us to have summer all the time, people on the other side of the world had to have winter all the time. We put things right as soon as we could.
We spent most of our time keeping track of the changes. While the other grades were busy eating their pizza and ice cream at lunch (the cafeteria menu was one thing we didn’t mind being in charge of), we were working on charts and graphs and trying to remember how things were really supposed to be.
And through all this, Mrs. McGreavy stayed the same. Literally. From her plain white dress to the gold, square glasses she wore, nothing varied from day to day. We tried to talk to her at first, get her to explain what was going on, but we got nowhere. “It’s your world,” was all she’d say, “be careful what you make of it.”
By spring, we were exhausted. Everything had changed so much that whenever we tried to take things back to normal, something new went wrong. Like when the dinosaurs ate every tree in town. We were quiet, each of us worrying over the mess we’d made, when I couldn’t take it anymore. I raised my hand.
“Mrs. McGreavy, I was just wondering, um, how you think we ought to fix thing?”
Mrs. McGreavy looked at me over her glasses, her eyes piercing into mine. “Do you want my help, Maggie?”
I gulped. You could hear it go down, everyone was listening so hard. “Yes, ma’am.”
Mrs. McGreavy smiled, and with a snap of her fingers, the world was back to normal. You could tell because it was raining outside.
“But if that’s all it took, why didn’t you help us before?” someone asked from the back of the room.
All Mrs. McGreavy said was, “You never asked.”
Matt. 7:7: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (NIV)
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