"Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home." - C. S. Lewis

Friday, May 30, 2014

Six Things I Learned in Pre-K This Year

In December of last year, I began working in the afternoons with five-year-olds at a local daycare.  The school year ended last week, and while some of the children will be sticking around for the summer program, others have moved on and will be attending kindergarten in the fall.  I hope to see several of them again sometime, but even those I will never see again have taught me a lot over the last few months!  Here are a few things I learned from five-year-olds this year:

Every child is different.
Okay, so I already knew this.  Still, it was fascinating to learn some of their different personalities and interests: we had some who were loud and outgoing and others who were quieter but loved one-on-one attention.  One didn't like jellybeans.  Another could talk all day about snakes or underwater animals.  Each one of them brought to school their own way of looking at the world, and I enjoyed a glimpse into their perspectives.

Heroes are influential in a child's life.
One day I quizzed the kids on what they want to be when they grow up.  Most of them listed "veterinarian" or "teacher," but one five-year-old boy insisted on "herpetologist" (and no, I didn't know what that was).  "Like Steve Irwin," he explained.  "He got stung by a sting ray.  I want to be like him."

Frozen songs are catchy.
Have you seen the movie?  Then no explanation is needed.

Sometimes it's the little things...
In the spring we had caterpillars in a plastic box in our classroom.  The kids enjoyed seeing the cocoons, and absolutely thrilling was the day when one of the cocoons started shaking and vibrating.  It was snack time, but all fifteen children jumped out of their seats to watch the former caterpillar leave its temporary housing behind.  As I watched the butterfly adjust to its wings, I had to admit that it was truly fascinating.

What others think about me shouldn't be at the top of my priority list.
This is an interesting one for me - I've always struggled with this, and one of the five-year-olds who was in our class this year thrives on positive attention from others.  Countless times we talked about how to respond when someone didn't like the way she did something (or the song she sang, or the dress she wore, etc.), and how resting in what God thinks of us takes away our worry over what others think.  One day, I was trying to help her understand that even if someone didn't praise her coloring picture, she didn't have to be bothered by that.  She could enjoy what she was doing no matter what the other children thought.  As I was talking with her, I realized how much I needed to hear that, too!  No matter what others think of how well I do something - or anything else - it doesn't have to bother me, either.

The most meaningful gift isn't always the most elaborate.
Whether it was for Christmas, or Valentine's Day, Teacher Appreciation Week, some of the gifts the children (or their parents!) gave us were very generous.  There were flowers, gift cards, and candy - all of which I have truly appreciated.  But the gifts I will treasure the most are those that cost the children nothing but their time.  Coloring pages and cards with childlike handwriting and mistakes, with undecipherable artwork that they had to explain to me ("it's a machine that makes hearts") - those are what I will keep the longest.  It's a reminder, too, when it is my turn to give a gift to someone else: Do I just choose something that seems like a good gift, or do I really put myself - my heart - into it?
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Piano Man

It was a quiet evening in the living room lobby of the assisted living center.  Gilligan’s Island played on the TV, but no one was paying any attention to the rerun.  Two elderly people read quietly in the nearly-deserted lobby.  Another woman left to play Bingo upstairs with her friends.  One couple finished a late dinner and took their ice cream to a loveseat near the readers.  All we heard in the hushed room were the receptionist at the front desk and Gilligan explaining to the Skipper.

Leaving his wife with the ice cream, the elderly man unceremoniously turned off the TV and shuffled over to a piano in the corner of the room.  Gently he began to play.  I had never heard the song before, and I still don’t know what song it was, but it was beautiful.  After listening for awhile and debating with myself, I joined his wife on the couch.

“How long has he played?” I asked her, gesturing toward the piano and the man who sat behind it.  She smiled sweetly at me, but I had to repeat myself a few times before she replied.  “He’s played as long as I’ve known him,” she said, adding that he had led worship in a church for years before he retired.

The residents who had been quietly reading during Gilligan’s escapades began humming along with the piano man’s simple song.  I would have loved to hear him play in church.

The scenery may have changed since he last played in a sanctuary.  His abilities have probably changed, too.  But the man at the piano still served his God with song – even if it was in a small assisted living center with hardly anyone to hear him.

After talking some with his wife, I glanced over at the piano again.  He was still playing.  He never looked up to see if anyone was listening.  As far as he knew, no one noticed his unpretentious solo.

But I was listening.  So were a handful of others.  Maybe it didn’t matter to him – I don’t think he was playing for us.  Even in the front room of that small assisted living center, I imagine he was playing for the same God who once called him to play in front of congregations.  And I have no doubt that the God who called him years ago was listening in the quiet, too.
Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid / FreeDigitalPhotos.net