Last week I had the rare opportunity of spending two mornings with Rita Smith’s vivacious third grade class. The experience reminded me of my own days of sitting in the same little chair at the same little desk, and it also reminded me how much things have changed in (oh my gosh!) forty years. I was there to monitor Rita as she handed out and progressed through a state-mandated test booklet that would show how much her class had learned this year. Yes, I was there to make sure the teacher didn’t cheat! Oh, but don’t you know I could drag out that soap box on this subject…but I won’t. Just suffice it to say that I was saddened to know that teachers aren’t trusted when it comes to state test scores, and saddened to know that the rules were made because some teacher somewhere had most probably or actually cheated and corrected some student’s wrong answers!
But it was the kids - those wonderful and mostly eight-year-olds kids - that burrowed their way into my heart those two mornings! I knew most of them, or at least I knew most of their names. They freely offered me their friendliness and open smiles, along with their chatter. One little girl let me know that “Miss Rita” was sometimes wont to call them by their older sibling’s names, which led to finding out that Rita has been teaching for seventeen years. A little boy wanted to make sure that I knew him, his mother, his father and every one of his other relatives. And I was impressed with each of these smart and funny children when it came time to get quiet and open up that thick, sealed test booklet. They quietly listened as Rita gave them instructions. Then they picked up their sharpened, Number 2 pencils, and they earnestly went to work solving reading and math problems. I had to smile during the silence that ensued…it was accompanied by many sniffles, sighs and even a few sneezes! Then the testing session was over, and once again the room came alive with wiggles and wise words and lots of giggles. And I was glad I was there amongst them all - these delightful little kids who, in so many ways, are no different than the kids I sat beside forty years ago!
I have to imagine that sometimes God looks upon us, His children, and just shakes His head in wonderment at our audacity and lack of thankfulness. And I will freely admit that I am one of those sometimes unthankful children. I came to this conclusion after our latest snowstorm. It was April, it was Spring, and the lilac bush beside my sidewalk had just blessed me with its first radiantly aromatic and perfect stem of flowers. The robins were joyfully singing, the grackles were getting vocal, and the doves were cooing their mating calls from hither to yon. Then, wham! I looked out the window and giant, feathery pieces of white were falling from the heavens and the world had changed from newly-green to white. I whined and lamented the sudden return of cold weather, even as I was also in awe of the beauty of the falling snow. And then, less than twenty-four hours later, the world had returned to it’s newly-green state of being. Where snow had been, puddles of water and wet earth now existed. And I realized that God had just given us a dose of moisture - a gift not a curse - and I just hadn’t realized that fact. My apologies to God go heavenwards, even as I also say a humble “thank you” to Him. Not only for the hidden gift of moisture He blessed us with do I thank Him. But also for the renewal of life - the birds and the flowers and the right, blue sky that sometimes goes unnoticed. Thus, I will try to remember to always look beyond the ordinary, and seek to find the extraordinary gifts that God places in my path and in my life each and every day. And I will be thankful!