The shortest distance between Point A and Point B is a straight line but I'm not in any hurry so there's going to be a few side roads and detours before I get to where I'm going. If you have a problem with that, I believe there are approximately three skillion other blogs and chances most of them are significantly lighter in verbage. Stick around or go. You hold the power.
For more than 15 years I was a children's pastor (Christian Education Director) in a large congregation in Oregon. Every Sunday morning the classrooms vibrated and reverberated from the alternative environmentally-friendly energy source that occurs when 500 preschool and kindergarten children inhabit one space. All of the children called me "Teacher Anita" and most days as my memory allowed I called them Adam, Maddy, David, Joshua, Stephanie, Emily, Stacy, Attila, Jacob, Caleb, Susanna, Brittany. When my memory failed it was Honey, Sweetie, Punkinhead, Buddyboy, and Doll.
They loved me and I loved every one of them. I couldn't help but love them. Adorable, sweet, charming punkinheads and muppet babies, one and all. Tender and silly memories. I have a million of them.
- The kindergarten boy who noticed I never wore shoes on Sunday morning and pressed a dime and a nickel into the palm of my hand one morning because he wanted me to be able to have some shoes to wear.
- The little boy who having just been promoted from the four year old class in the basement to the kindergarten class on the third floor, exclaimed in delighted surprise as I greeted him by the door "Oh! I didn't know there was a Teacher Anita up here too!"
- The two year olds who called one of our male teachers "Jesus" because he had gentle eyes and a beard.
- Jeremy who gave me the note I have to this day "Teacher Anita, I like having you with me my whole life. Love, Jeremy."
- The time in an attempt to teach the children how we are all different but loved equally by God, I asked them to name the differences between a short fair-skinned red-haired girl and a tall African-American boy that stood in the front of the class. A little boy, raised in a family that apparently valued honest disclosure with their children, replied "The boy has a penis. The girl doesn't have a penis. She has a vagina. Girls have vaginas. Boys have penises." The lesson concluded and we moved into snack time.
- The Easter when I told the story of the empty tomb to a Easter-Morning-Standing-Room-Only crowd of five year olds and upon saying "And the tomb was empty, Jesus was alive" heard the soft sound of one little set of hands clapping for joy from the back of the room.
My kids. I was part of their life and they were part of mine. I told them what I knew about God and they taught me how to love God by letting me love them. They're part of my life still.
Three years ago I received an email that began, "Anita, I don't know if you remember me..." I did. It was Klarissa. One of my kids. I remembered her because I never forgot her. And for these past three years every time I've gone up to Portland to spend time with my Mom, Klarissa and I meet at Peets for coffee and long conversations about our lives and our faith questions, about our memories of the past and our hopes for the future. Those times have been so special to me; to reconnect with my past, to see a little girl I adored grow into a young woman I admire. The last time we met for coffee was only weeks before Klarissa headed off to Nashville with her husband to begin her graduate studies. Did I mention she's brilliant?
Last night there was another email from Klarissa. Attached was this photo.
Klarissa is on the right and Amy, another one of my kids (I'm so possessive and proud) is on the left. Klarissa had returned to Portland for the weekend for a family event and she and Amy had decided to surprise me at the Portland Marathon, so they made a sign, drove to a distance 12.4 miles into the race and waited for me on the side of the road. According to my Garmin, I pulled out of the marathon at 12.28 miles. If I had gone less than two more blocks I would have reached 12.4 miles where the girls were waiting for me. As it was I never saw them.
I've been misty-eyed since Klarissa's email arrived, not because I'm disappointed I quit before I saw them, but blown out with gratitude that they would even think of doing such a thing for me. As children, Klarissa and Amy, like all the others, taught me so much while spoiling me with love. As my peers nothing has changed.
Thank you Amy.
Thank you Klarissa.