When I was in 2nd grade, I had a crazy teacher. I mean really crazy. She had a hot temper and no skill with kids. I still remember her unhinged screaming while her eyes were huge and her finger was waving in a kid’s face. She would tell our class we weren’t gonna pass 2nd grade, that we weren’t going to make it. She did this on a daily basis. I have seen kids ornery enough to make good teachers finally snap, and this was not the scenario. My teacher did this to any kid who did not immediately fall into line. I actually was terrified of her. I lost 7 lbs off my 2nd grade body from the stress of being in her class. I struggled to tell my parents why I was so afraid of my teacher and why I thought she was mean. I remember trying not to cry while she yelled at other students. Well, my day came. I messed up. I lost my assignment and I couldn’t find it. The bell rang for school to be out and my Dad was picking me up in his car that day. My teacher asked me for my paper and for some reason I couldn’t find it. She began getting upset with me because I didn’t know where my paper had gone. I remember worrying my Dad wouldn’t be able to find me because my teacher wouldn’t let me leave and I knew a lot of time was passing. I don’t know when my Dad showed up or how long he had been watching, but by the time he said something, she was yelling at me with her finger in my face. I just remember his voice calmly but loudly saying, “What is the problem?” It startled my teacher, probably because her Mrs.Hyde unbecoming side was showing. She turned around to look at him and told him I had lost my paper. I honestly don’t remember their whole conversation, but when my Dad asked how we got our papers, she snapped. This teacher grabbed my fully grown father by the arm and told him they were going to the principals office. I kid you not, she marched him there while I walked silently crying behind them trying to make my short little kid legs keep up. She opened the door to the principal’s office, shoved my Dad in, and slammed the door. Then she stormed past me like I wasn’t there, her heels stomping all the way back to our classroom. I stood in the empty hallway lost. I was 7 years old. I remember not knowing where to go, so I just slid down against the wall and cried outside of the principals office.
Our school janitor was a very kind old man. His name was Mr. Slushy. Actually, now that I think about it, I don’t know if that was his real name or just what everyone called him. I heard his cart approaching and he rounded the corner. He glanced down at me sitting in the hallway and stopped for a moment. He then started to walk away and disappeared into the cafeteria. A minute later he emerged from the cafeteria with 2 chocolate milks in his hands. He walked up to me and asked if he could sit down. I nodded. He then carefully leaned against the wall and eased his arthritic joints into a sitting position by me. He handed me a chocolate milk carton and a straw. I had stopped crying by now. He drank his milk as I drank mine. He said,”Honey, are you alright?” I said, “Yes, but my teacher put my Dad in the principal’s office.” Mr. Slushy kind of smiled, and I think he was holding back a chuckle. “Awe, it’ll be alright.” He sat by me for a bit until he finished his milk and I finished mine. I told him thank you. He smiled and took my empty carton. He said, “You are welcome. It’s gonna be okay.” Then he winked and left and went on with his janitorial duties.
Mr. Slushy was right. It did end up okay. I was moved out of Mrs. Hyde’s class. My new teacher was fantastic and I was glad to be in her class every day. I still occasionally saw Mrs. Hyde screaming at other kids with her pointer finger in their face and her crazy wide eyes. I always felt bad for them and so very glad to have been rescued from her class. Now I look back and wonder how on earth this woman was employed with the school. As a grown adult with my own school aged children, I have had to intervene with my kids and their teachers at times. Most of the time it’s just to smooth out a misunderstanding or correct a behavior my child needs some help with, or so I can clarify what is going on in class or how things are going. Between 3 children spanning elementary through Jr. High, only once have I had to deal with the truly crazy action of a teacher. As a parent I know my child’s perspective can be slanted, but the 7 year old in me who had a truly crazy teacher…always ALWAYS checks it out just to make sure we don’t have a Mrs. Hyde situation on our hands. Anyway…
Mr. Slushy taught my 7 year old self something very important in those brief moments. You don’t have to rescue someone from their circumstances to be a hero, you just have to be willing to give a little time and care to make an impact. He will never know the difference he made for me that day. Sadly, I realize that 2nd grade was more than 28 years ago and it’s very probable that Mr. Slushy has gone on to his reward, but I will never forget his kindness.
I want to share a parable Jesus gave. This one is known as, “The parable of the talents.”
Let’s read it and then we will chat.
Luke 19: 12-26
12. He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return.
13. And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come.
14. But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us.
15. And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading.
16. Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds.
17. And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities.
18. And the second came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds.
19. And he said likewise to him, Be thou also over five cities.
20. And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin:
21. For I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow.
22. And he saith unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow:
23. Wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury?
24. And he said unto them that stood by, Take from him the pound, and give it to him that hath ten pounds.
25. (And they said unto him, Lord, he hath ten pounds.)
26. For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him.
So let’s recap this parable: Jesus told of a Nobleman who gave his servants each money. He left and then returned to find out what these servants had done with their gift. To those who were engineering and creative to use and “grow” their gift, the nobleman was satisfied with their use of their gifts and gave them even more than he already had. To the servant who did nothing with their gift and didn’t use it..he was disappointed and upset and he took the gift away.
I take this to mean that God gives each of us gifts/talents. He expects us to use them. Use it or lose it. We don’t all sing, or have amazing physical abilities with sports, or have out of this world mathematical skills that will help us send a man to the moon. Talents are not always easy to pick out. Sometimes they are more subtle. Some people have a keen ability to notice the small things, or the ability to read people with their gut feeling. Some have agile hands that can operate in surgery with precise skill. I’ve seen those who have a gift and talent for teaching. I’ve already given you an example of a teacher who did not have that talent. There is the gift of singing or playing an instrument. When you see someone in their element, it is a fantastic and beautiful sight. It is mesmerizing and inspiring. Can you imagine this world without talent? It would be so horribly bland and boring. Talent is given to enrich each others lives and to make this world a better place.
I imagine that when God sprinkles all of our individual ingredients together and He decides to add those extra special qualities, He chooses what those gifts will be with great care. They are selected for a specific time in His huge timeline, to touch specific souls and make a difference in this world. Some of those talents will change the world on a grand scale that is measured in the before and after this specific talent rose up. I think of these as the souls who very obviously helped inspire and change society. Think Martin Luther King, Bill Gates, Maya Angelou, and Yo Yo Ma. Some souls will work in the shadows with their talents on a much lower key scale. These people come to mind in specific instances in your life when you feel someone impacted you for the better. I think of these people such as Mr. Slushy, the nurse I talked about last week who went above and beyond to get me a hot shower, and my grandma Joan, who taught me to silently pray each time I hear a siren. These are the people who’s talents impact our lives in ways that are just as important as the world famous ones. They have helped shape us into the people we are today. I wouldn’t want to have experienced my life without their influence.
Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
I sometimes lay there in the darkness at night, worried about whether I’m making a positive enough impact on this world. I worry about whether I’m doing enough and if there is more I’m supposed to be doing. The longer I live, the more I realize that I probably don’t need to worry about this. The things I’ve been led to do in my life, are usually spurred into motion by God and then fueled by a compulsion to accomplish them. He will let us know what to do and when to do it, if our hearts and minds are tuned to Him. What God wants, is for His words to be written on our hearts, and for us to live each day in each moment to the best of our ability. We are an extension of His arm to a whole world full of need. He will put the right situations and people in front of us. It’s the small things in life that sometimes make the biggest impact. Twenty eight years later, I can tell you that there was once a 7 year old that needed to learn that.
I know that God has been with me when I faced each and every difficult fight and obstacle I’ve encountered. It’s looking back on the difficult moments that I remember the blessings that happened in spite of them. I had a rough day, and got sent Mr. Slushy. I could tell you a ton of other instances where God sent a blessing in the form of someone with a talent. They have always been around, prompted at the right time by God. We are not alone. God has promised to never leave us alone. His reassurance that we aren’t alone, is often found in the souls who show up with the right skills at the right time. God works in the hearts and in the actions of the souls around us, to provide for our needs and also for our reassurance. For instance, I know the anesthesiologist for my last surgery, is a brilliantly talented man. I know that, because we have a friend in common and she has told me what a stellar person he is. She had operated with him in surgery for nearly 20 years. I firmly believe God prompted his heart to volunteer his services to me, based on his care for the dear friend we have in common. He found out his friend was concerned about her friend who was having surgery. He stepped up to the plate and did what he could to ease her worry. He offered his effort, his time and his talent. As a result, I was blessed beyond measure by this gesture. Do you know who should get the credit for this? God does. He did it. He orchestrated the scenario to ever be possible, but he needed the heart to be willing. That credit I give to my wonderful anesthesiologist. In the moment I learned he was going to be doing this for me and he would take care of me as my anesthesiologist, I knew God was offering me yet another phenomenal reassurance that He was with me in every aspect of facing this last surgery. So even if Mr. Slushy isn’t around, my Father in Heaven is and He is walking with me. He made us and He gave us talents. It’s just up to us to look for instances in life where we can do something to be the blessing to someone else.
Hebrews 13:5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.