November 12, 2013

Searching the Obvious

I enter a small auditorium inside the Christian school and academy. The usher hands me a program and walks me to a seat at the very top with a sign that reads RESERVED. The usher smiles and says: “Ella asked me to seat you here, the best seat in the house.” I glance at the program. Then I take a second look at the title of the play I came to see. Is that a typo?

* * *

I kneel down in front of Bret and hold the dictionary in my hands. Will it be too heavy for him? His small hands take the book with wide eyes and a beautiful smile. He can handle it. Ella and Bret have come by to drop off an invitation. In two weeks Bret’s second-grade class will host family night at his school. Ella, who teaches the second-grade class, is insistent that I not miss the event. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Ella used to be my student.

* * *

As the stage is prepared, I look around. I see people demonstrating support for teachers and students. I glance at the program again and read the title of Ella’s play: Know-and-Tell. Shouldn’t it be Show-and-Tell? The lights dim. The stage has only a microphone and two screens with a picture of Ella’s students holding signs that read: Know-and-Tell.

It’s not a typo.

From behind the curtain a little girl in a pink dress walks toward the microphone. The auditorium is silent. In a little voice she says: “I am grateful for my grandpa” (the screen brings up a picture of the girl with her grandpa). “My grandpa is a veteran; he loves to sing and plays the piano. He sings with me. He is teaching me to play the piano. Thank you very much.” The little girl takes a bow, and the audience applauds.

One by one the children come forward. Only kind words are said.

“My mother is very loving to me. We have Sunday cookie day, when we make cookies for our neighbors, and my friends come over and we help mom and have juice. I love her and want to be like her.”

I sit and watch as tissues emerge from purses, and handkerchiefs wipe away tears. These are memorized words. They are only kind words.

Then I see a picture of Bret and me, sitting in his backyard. Bret approaches the microphone. “I appreciate my friend Dixil. I like that she reads to me and it doesn’t matter it’s always the same book. She gave me a grown-up book, a dictionary, because I told her I liked it. I learn a new word each day. Today I learned ‘appreciate,’ but I really love her. I am still in the a’s.”

The audience laughs and applauds as I reach into my purse for a tissue.

For the finale, the second grade stands holding a banner that says: Know-and-Tell. On the screens appear the words: “What would happen if we only spoke of others with kind words? What if mistakes, bad decisions, or poor choices were not relevant in our conversations of others?”

The auditorium is silent. I look around and see people reaching for one another’s hands, heads leaning on shoulders. Others stare blankly at their hands, maybe contemplating reckless words they have said. I am in the best seat. Ella knew the obvious would be seen from this seat. We all came to support teachers and children, when in reality we came to learn, to be reminded.

As I sit in the auditorium watching everyone exit to the reception, I begin to wonder. Know-and-Tell. It’s an interesting concept, but it’s not quite developed yet. To speak well of others all the time . . . ironically, we would have to rethink several things: compassion; loving our sisters and brothers unconditionally; treating others as we would like to be treated ourselves; not speaking ill of others; mission; holding someone when their heart is broken in two—without judgment. We would have to follow the example of Jesus.

But we know this.

The Holy Spirit simply whispers to help us show it.