I was the first one to arrive in the Sunday school classroom so I began taking things out of the bin, trying to look like I had some clue as to what I was doing. A mom soon arrived with her child and eyed me suspiciously. The last time a mother had looked at me that way was when my daughter Alexis was four and I was picking her up after dance. I also had instructions to also pick up her friend Amy and take her home. We stood outside “Miss Karen’s” Dance Studio, me and the other moms, as the girls came out. Alexis saw me and came over. I saw Amy and told her to come on, that I was taking her home too. I had known Amy all her life but she looked up at Miss Karen while pointing at me and said, in a voice a little louder than I would have preferred, “He’s not my mom.”
Now all eyes were on me and I could feel Alexis moving away. What a way to go I thought — ripped to shreds by soccer moms.
Back to the present. The other children, about eleven in all, had now arrived. Also on hand, to my great relief, was another teacher. Since it was my first time I focused on difficult tasks like taping paper together and keeping everyone in line as we went up to the gym for story time.
Things went smoothly and it looked as if I was going to get through the morning without any catastrophes. Then out of the blue one of the boys called me “a big fat noodle head.” I was stunned. The only comeback I had was, “Yeah, well, that’s what you are but what am I?” The incident had only lasted a few seconds but my confidence had been shaken to the core.
The next week I returned a more determined teacher. I would show them there was much more to me than a head full of pasta. The lesson that day was on Jesus feeding the 5,000, and we were to teach the children about sharing. We had a game with little fishing poles, which were small sticks with green yarn and a magnet at the end. As we began to pass them out to the kids the yarn became all tangled.
Only about four of the kids had their poles and the harder I tried untangling, the worse it became. They were getting restless. Then two of the boys turned into Ninja’s and began using their poles as num-chucks. I suggested this was a perfect opportunity to put Jesus’ message to work and share the poles. But the loud hissing and booing told me they didn’t agree. I looked to the other teacher for help, but she was praying.
Then I felt a pull on my pants leg and looked down. There, staring up at me stood a little girl named Mary Helene. I said, “ Yes honey, I am trying to get you a fishing pole.”
“No,” she said. “That’s not it. Why don’t we play the quiet game?”
Had I heard her right? Did she say the quiet game? I had not thought of that old ruse for years. Did it actually still work?
“How do you play?” I asked Mary Helene, who was anxious to tell me but not nearly as anxious as I was to hear about it.
“Well,” she began, “first I come up to the front of the room and then I choose whoever is the quietest. Then that person comes up and they choose next.”
I looked down at sweet little Mary Helene, wishing I had a Nobel Prize to give her, while at the same time remembering a saying I’d once heard about God taking care of babies and fools.