Yesterday’s post conveyed my terror at being accosted in the night last weekend. The strain of sudden fear and shock should have been enough to last me through the next decade. I only wish that had been the case. Sunday afternoon, I again had to face a period of anxiety that nearly did me in, this time in a totally different way.
What could possibly compare with the shadowy figures in the night and the possibility of physical danger, you ask? Well, you’ll understand completely when I tell you of the horror that awaited me on Sunday afternoon at the AWANA children’s club at my church. It was the worst! I had to stand up in front of two different groups of children and attempt to share some of my supposed knowledge with them! Oh, the apprehension; the mental distress that I experienced!
The Lovely Lady had agreed to help me with an object lesson, so there was a certain degree of mitigation, but she wasn’t the one standing in front of the masses (all 15 of them) and speaking for 15 to 25 minutes. The little angels filed in, the preliminaries were dealt with, and then “Mr. Paul” was introduced. I stood in front of the children, who were all sitting in their seats expectantly and I was transported back to school. Once more, in my mind’s eye, I stood in front of the class with a poorly prepared report, stuttering out my words and turning redder by the moment, knowing that my face and neck were beet red and that knowledge only making it worse. But here, there would be no teacher to prompt, to try to be helpful, and failing that, to say sympathetically, “Okay, Paul. You did a nice job, even though you couldn’t remember the name of the main character in the book. You may sit down now.”
I’ve stood and preached forty-minute sermons to two hundred fifty or three hundred adults! I’ve played my horn with a brass group before more than a twelve hundred people in a packed cathedral! Not once in my adult life have I felt the trepidation in standing in front of a group as I did before this small gathering of children. Even now, I’m struggling to explain the cause of my nervousness, the reason for my distress.
It should come as no surprise to you that the children did magnificently. They were attentive, but curious, raising their hands to ask pertinent questions. They wanted to make comments that linked their experiences to the subject I had come prepared to talk about. The clarinet I used as an object lesson was of great interest, as were the horrific noises which came from it as I attempted to blow on it. And, as the lesson came to a close, they were rapt as the Lovely Lady came and played a duet with me, beautifully (her part the beautiful one, mine barely adequate). When the first group was done, my heartbeat was almost back to normal, my breathing patterns as regular as they get these days. The second group came in and I had even longer to speak to them. I wasn’t perfect in my delivery, but was definitely more relaxed. Again the kids were great, and we got through the presentation just fine. Whew! The relief is almost indescribable!
What a joy! After the fact, I will report gladly that I was delighted to have the opportunity to share with these, the future leaders of our churches, the future doctors, scientists, and teachers, some of whom might be teaching me and practicing medicine on my old body in the days to come! I actually think that this may be the reason for my stress as I prepared and anticipated standing before them (besides the classroom thing). The adults I’ve preached to before have all the tools to listen critically. They are able to think independently and can (and will) argue about points with which they disagree. Children, on the other hand, are often like sponges. While they will argue if they have developed a point of view, they will frequently accept a certain idea simply because it has been advanced by an adult they know and respect.
I firmly believe that the onus on teachers of children is greater than on any other group. I think that Jesus was making this point when He drew the very compelling picture of having a millstone hung around the neck and being thrown into the sea, saying that would be better than to be the one who makes a child stumble in his faith. Reason enough to be nervous? I’d say! And, my eternal gratitude to mothers who love and guide these most valuable of treasures, to the teachers who instill knowledge and life skills, and to volunteers everywhere who are willing to face the terror and the fear of sharing themselves with the future of our society, our churches, our government, and our families.
Having said all that, I think that it will probably be some time before I can screw up the courage to stand in front of them again. Maybe next year…but, only if they can’t find someone else to do it by then.
“Children are like wet cement. Whatever falls on them makes an impression.”
(Haim Ginott~teacher and child psychologist~1922-1973)
“I take a very practical view of raising children. I put a sign in each of their rooms: “Checkout Time is 18 years.”
(Erma Bombeck~American columnist and humorist~1927-1996)