When I was 5 years old, I was in Mrs. Forward’s kindergarten class at Four Corners Elementary School. I loved being in her class. We had morning flag raising where some lucky kid would get to hold the small American flag while we all pledged our allegiance and then sang a patriotic song. My favorite one to sing was You’re a Grand Old Flag. I loved it because it was the favorite of the little boy who stood next to me. His name was Mario. Sigh… Well, I also liked it because it was a toe-tapper, but that’s not my point.
Other than pledging and singing, we did some napping and a whole lot of learning. In the fall, Mrs. Forward spent quite a bit of time teaching us about what happens to people, to animals, and to plants in this new and colorful season. I absorbed every word she said and could hardly contain my excitement when she gave us homework. HOME WORK! That was what the big kids did. I’d heard them talking on the bus. Our homework was to find one sign of fall that we could bring in and share with the class. I rode the bus home in a euphoric state, my mind racing with the possibilities. As I walked up to our house, our huge, climb-able, red maple told me that she had the answer to all of my fall needs. Jackpot!
The next morning, before school, my mother and I walked out to the beautiful tree and carefully picked 5 red leaves from the ground. We put these in a plastic baggie and folded the top over to keep my leaves safely inside. This was back in the day before the bags zipped shut and had the green stripe of proof. Back then, we had to be trusting.
I carried my baggie to the bus stop where it caught the attention of Billy T. He was my next-door neighbor. He was in the third grade. He was also a bully. During my tenure as his fence neighbor, he made my life miserable at times. On this particular day he waited until I walked to my usual spot and then came over to find out what I was carrying. I explained the whole thing to him hoping that he would see the value in my mission and just leave me alone. Unfortunately, he wasn’t of the same mindset. Instead, he pulled the bag out of my hands, and assured me he would give it back once we got on the bus. He gave it back alright, but only after he had crumbled up the leaves to where they resembled organic confetti. I was crushed. My heart was in about as many pieces as my leaves. Now I would never be able to show my face in the homework arena.
I timidly entered my classroom and joined the other cuties on the carpet. Mario, sigh, had saved a spot right next to him. Mrs. Forward eagerly called each one of us up to her chair and proceeded to display what we brought and asked us to explain how this was a sign of fall. When it came to be my turn, I blushed, I mumbled, I tried to melt into the numbered dots on our kindergarten counting carpet. Finally, Mrs. Forward left no doubt that I was required to come up to stand next to her. I gave her my bag and was waiting for the laughter or the banishment that I surely deserved. After all, I had hadn’t done my homework. But while I cringed and held back the tears, a miraculous thing happened. There were sunbeams cascading down to the floor around my feet. There was a heavenly choir singing. There was, well, no there wasn’t. But it sure felt like that.
Mrs. Forward said she was glad, yes glad, that I had these leaves because now she could show the class what happened to all the beautiful leaves as they got walked on by humans and animals and got made into special food for the soil and later the plants. I had brought a fall science lesson. Imagine my utter disbelief. I cursed and thanked Billy T. for his plans meant for my demise and for those same plans that lifted me up. I also thanked Mrs. Forward for giving me the go-ahead to dream of one day becoming a teacher so that I could rescue little kids like she did.
That time in my life still serves as a faith lesson for me. There are always times, in all our lives, where people and enemies mean things for our downfall. When someone talks behind our back, when someone steals the spotlight at our time to shine, or when plans fall apart, we must remember that God will take those times and use them for His glory. We just need to let it go to Him. When we do, we can feel as elated as my little kindergarten self and hold our heads high as we continue on our journey.
Genesis 50:20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.