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Being changed by love

The heavy scent of gardenias filled my nostrils as I stood in the crooked line meandering around the side of the church. All of us were scrubbed to a sparkle, and filled with anticipation of the fun to come this week in Bible School. We could hardly wait for the seemingly endless supply of cookies and Kool-Aid!

A hush fell over the group as the Bible School Director began to speak. There was no need to ask for our attention more than once as we had all been taught to respect our elders.

It was a big deal to be chosen for the honor of leading our procession into the sanctuary. Three children were selected each day. One marched proudly in holding the American flag; one held the Christian flag; and one held a very large Bible. Not only did these lucky children get to lead our procession, but also they had the honor of standing at the front of the church and leading the pledges.

The first day some of the older children were selected to lead us. I remember how my heart beat so strongly in my chest as we spoke the touching words. The pledge to the Bible states: I pledge allegiance to the Bible, God’s Holy Word. I will make it a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path, and hide its word in my heart that I may not sin against Thee.

My turn finally came! I was selected to carry the Christian flag into the old, country church. I couldn’t contain my smile, and burst into a toothy grin. The day flew by, and I rushed home to tell my Mama that they had picked me.

Years later, I worked as a teacher’s assistant with a marvelous teacher named Corrine Andrews. She was extraordinarily loving and kind to each of her students and encouraged me to finish my degree and become a teacher. Mrs. Andrews never repeated a negative word about a student, but only looked for ways to help.

We were stumped over a little boy’s bad behavior, and tried just about everything we could think of to have a breakthrough. He came from a tough environment and was filled with anger, which he dumped on the rest of us pretty frequently. Somewhere in the back of my mind I remembered how happy I had been at being selected to lead on that long ago Summer’s day and thought this might help our young man.

Mrs. Andrews agreed so we selected our unruly student to lead us to lunch, recess, and bathroom break each day.

“Now Terrance, only a well behaved young gentleman is chosen to lead the class. Do you think you can handle it?”

That little boy’s face lit up like a Christmas tree, and the transformation was immediate. We were so pleased that a little love and compassion changed this young man’s perspective. Terrance felt accepted and special, and he behaved accordingly.

Jan Penton Miller can be reached at lilsisjan@yahoo.com.