“That just don’t make no sense.” Jaycie declared, in all her nine-year-old wisdom. She wrinkled her freckled nose, and stared at me with wide blue eyes.
Teaching third graders in Sunday School was proving to be a real challenge. I had been out of the children’s department for years, but was somehow persuaded that I was “desperately needed” to fill a vacancy left when a teacher had to move away.
Was I ever in for a surprise! These kids were not like those of a couple of decades ago. Besides the fact that their energy level was at least four times my own, I had to admit I was totally perplexed with their thinking. As they slowly opened up to me, I began to see the reasons.
Jaycie, for instance, was being raised by her grandmother. Having been in VBS during the summer, she continued to come because she lived across the street from our church, and could walk to Sunday School. Her father, Jay, had been killed in a tragic accident, and her mother, a very troubled young woman, had abandoned Jaycie. Her grandmother, though she seemed caring enough, had chosen not to be a part of our church or any other. She had agreed, somewhat reluctantly, for Jaycie to come.
“I’m not gonna let nobody push me around,” Jaycie continued firmly. The toughness in her appearance and her voice were convincing.
The lesson in question was from Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31, better known as “The Golden Rule.” I had made the point that we are to act in a kind way, even to those that might not be easy to get along with. Though Jaycie was more outspoken than others, I knew there were several who just didn’t “get it.”
“Nick, can you help us explain this to Jaycie?” I asked the thin dark-skinned boy next to her. Nick, too, was from a broken home, and one of three children of a single mother.
“Well..., I think it means we ought to be nice to people if we want them to be nice to us,” he replied, a little uncertainly. “But I don’t think it works too good.”
Struck out again, I thought, as I cringed at their attitudes, as well as the grammar. How could I get this truth across?
Coming to my rescue, hopefully, was Lauren, who was from a longtime family in the church. She began with confidence, “It means that we don’t shove somebody out of the way if they break in line. And if we want to ride another kid’s bike, we have to share stuff with them first.”
Now, we’re getting somewhere. I was ready to clarify the issue just a bit, when Jaycie interrupted again.
“Better not nobody break in line in front of me, I’m tellin' you right now,” her little face drew up in a scowl.
I decided to let it drop for a minute, and glanced around the room at the contrasts in the ten “little people” there. Some had been in Sunday School all their lives, with these principles taught and modeled for them. And even of those, more than one or two proved to be pretty spoiled and selfish. For a brief moment, I wondered if I had been enlisted in a lost cause.
Suddenly, from across the table, little blond Megan, who had been very quiet, got up and came around and stood by Jaycie. She reached into her small pink purse, removed a brand new box of colored pencils and handed it to her. Without a word, she went back to her seat.
“What do I do with these?” Jaycie asked, this time her voice a little softer.
“I’m givin’ ‘em to you if you want ‘em,” replied Megan, solemnly. “Teacher said we need to be kind to people who are hard to get along with. And I guess you’re one of ‘em. But Jesus told me to do it, and He helped me, I think, ‘cause I kinda didn’t want to.”
The class burst out laughing, and the atmosphere was transformed. Even Jaycie grinned, and I had only one thing left to say.
“Oh, yes, boys and girls, I forgot that part. Jesus has to help us do stuff like this, because all of us kinda don’t want to.”
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