“Okay, who remembers who we talked about last week?” I watch nine little bodies squirm in their seats. A tenth child drops a goldfish cracker on the floor, picks it up and eats it, before I can raise a hand to prevent it.
“Remember who was born on Christmas? Can anyone tell me the baby’s name?”
“God?” ventures Brianna. I nod and smile.
“Yes, God came here as a little baby named Jesus,” I remind the kids. “We talked about that last week. Now we’re going to talk about some things Jesus did after he grew up, after baby Jesus was a grown up like your mom or dad. Jesus was a teacher; he taught that people should love God and love each other.”
Jessica whispers loudly to Trevor, an argument building. Miss Mandy moves in with more lemonade and crackers. The two are quiet while their mouths are full.
“Jesus told a story about a man who got hurt and was lying by the side of the road bleeding,” I continue. “Two people passed by without helping that man, because they didn’t like to deal with people who might be very sick. Then a man came along who was a Samaritan—someone the other people didn’t like and sometimes made fun of. What do you think that person did?”
Billy and Jon have their heads half under the snack table, where each one is trying to step on the other’s shoes. Hannah raises her hand: “I’m out of juice!” Again Miss Mandy moves in with the pitcher. I hand Billy a picture of a wounded man and Jon a picture of a Samaritan. “Could you hold these up for me?” I ask, smiling.
“Okay,” I say, louder, “if our family and friends were sick, we would all want to help, right? But it would be harder to help someone who didn’t like us or who made fun of us, right? But that’s why Jesus’ story was special: the Samaritan knew that we should love and help everyone. If we were sick, we would want others to love and help us, right? So that’s what the Samaritan did.”
“Can I go to the bathroom?”
“Yes, Jimmy. Don’t forget to wash your hands.” I rub my temples. “The Samaritan picked up the sick man, cleaned where he’d been hurt, then took him to an inn till the man got better. An inn is like a motel,” I add, because Ashley is bouncing in her seat. But she has a different question.
“Can I go to the bathroom too?”
“Sure you can, but can you wait till Jimmy’s done?” Ashley’s eyes get larger; I knock on the bathroom door. “Hurry, Jimmy! Okay?”
I take the pictures of the wounded man and the Samaritan away from Billy and Jon and place them on the flannel board. Then I bring out a new picture showing the wounded man in bed, now joyfully recuperating. “Jesus says we should love and help everyone we can, just like that Samaritan did. Any questions?”
Trevor’s hand shoots up. “Yes, Trevor?”
“How do those pictures stick to that black thing?”
Okay, I’d been hoping for questions on the story. Still, everyone shows keen interest as I demonstrate how the fuzzy stuff on the back of the pictures sticks to the fuzzy black cloth covering the board. Momentarily, nine children silently lean in to watch the fuzzies collide. Even Jimmy scoots out of the bathroom to watch. In the excitement, someone’s lemonade spills to the floor.
Ashley bolts for the bathroom. I grab napkins and kneel by the snack table. Suddenly, Bailey, who has been sitting silently in her chair till now, appears at my elbow with a roll of paper towels. As I throw Bounty on the spill, it clicks. “Thank you, Bailey, for helping me,” I say loudly. “See kids? Bailey thought about what I would need to clean up this spill. She didn’t have to help me, but she did, just like the Samaritan. Jesus wanted us to love each other and think about what other people need. Understand?”
Still kneeling, I pop my head above the snack table to look at the class. Several hold out snack napkins toward me. All, despite previous distractions, are focused on my problem of the lemonade spill.
That’s why I come here week after week: the Teacher always has a lesson for me.