Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Flaming Torches

I am remembering things these days.

Yesterday one of my mother's and my dearest friends (also a mentor to me) told me a story about myself that I'd long forgotten. She's known me almost all of my life, and we tenderly recalled the days when I was a little girl and she a young mother.

I had always loved children. I hadn't forgotten that, of course, because I still do. Something about their innocence and wonder strikes me and pulls me into their happy, beautiful world. But to go on with my story.

So yesterday I sat at a table with this precious mother, her husband, and their six lovely children. Fondly, I remembered when each and every one of them were little and before most of them were born. It's strange to look at a beautiful young lady, just entering into womanhood, and remember when she was a baby, holding my hand and learning to walk, talk; sing.

My friend told the story that has awakened my remembrance. I was enthusiastic about teaching children, she told us, by the respective age of eight. After church on Sundays and Wednesdays, I'd gather the little children together - a group of two-year-olds, three-year-olds, and children up to my own age. At times, I'd have a special attendance of children who were older than myself. Very special.

I'd pull out my handcrafted canvas bag, filled with my "class" things. Coloring books, crayons, puzzles, prizes and games would line the corner of the sidewalk in the shadow of the church building where we'd sit huddled and avidly engaged. I helped the tiny ones with writing their names on their sweet pictures, and enthusiastically (perhaps too enthusiastically?) praise the other children's highly innovative artwork and creations.

By the dozens mothers would bring their children and sigh with relief on seeing them productively employed. My friend was one of these mothers. Her daughters were some of my students. It was nothing to me. I was doing what I loved.

Something about it, being surrounded by the happy little voices, joining in their laughter, looking down into the twinkling eyes (and sometimes up at them) and putting my thoughts about God into their heads was the next thing to heaven for me. I planned all week for it, gathered new supplies and ideas, and was as crazy over it as one woman at my church over the VBS program of which she was the leader. Seeing the children happy, employed and united instead of running around the church parking lot and giving headaches to their parents, left me feeling delighted.

And then I'd pull out the book.

I'd read as long as I could. I was quite unaware of the wide eyes that were watching me, the little hands that laid aside whatever they were doing and found their places on little laps or the minds that were turning quickly with wholesome, biblical thoughts. How could I have known?

Years down the road, long after I had moved elsewhere and began attending another church, in another state, with other friends, I'd keep that love of teaching children with me, and it was that same love that helped and spurred me onward as I helped to home school my eight younger siblings throughout my high school years. That pastime of reading stories to children would become a passion for telling stories to children, eventually writing them - for both children and adults. It's never left me and only grown.

But the story isn't over yet.

Ten years later, I sit at a table with some of the same young people who were my avid students of the past. Their mother smiles at me, smiles at one of them in particular, and tells me that my tradition, however small, is still being kept.

Because her daughter is running it now.

Every Sunday at that same church, when the lights in the auditorium are off and the children are running off to play in the parking lot and unknowingly give their parents headaches, my young shadow pulls out her handmade canvas bag, gathers her little class of children under the covering of the building, and sits in a circle with them on a small corner of the sidewalk. She hands them the coloring books, the crayons, the games, the prizes, and together they revel in masterpieces.

And then she reads. While the words are flying expressively from her lips, the children watch; mouths open, hearts beating, eyes flashing, minds spinning.

They are captivated.

And the tradition goes on. It is just a small thing, this story of the connection from me to my friend's daughter, once the little girl who sat in my shadow and listened to my stories. But what it represents is not. The torch I carried so enthusiastically and waved with joy would be carried and waved by one of the little people who watched me so intently those Sundays. How could I have known?

I couldn't have. I didn't.

This act of remembrance makes me think. What other kinds of torches am I passing to those hearts that beat for me, those eyes that gaze upon me, those hands that reach upward? You never know. The things I am doing today may very well be flaming torches preparing to be passed on to the next generation.

Maybe I should be doing them well. Quite well.

Just maybe.


Lady Ruth Ann said...

oh wow. those are good thoughts. A lot of times I don't even think about the long lasting effect what I do has on others. Thank you for the reminder.

rbrgoats said...

Diddo Ruth!
Hey, Sarah, glad to know you're 'finally' back from your trip!!! ;D
Hope you had fun, minus all the uh...adventures... you girls had!!! :D
God is good, isn't He???
Sarah P. :D

Anonymous said...


It was fun to see this story make its way to your blog after hearing it 'round the table with those dear friends of both of ours :) What fun memories....

Much love always,
Mrs. D.

Anonymous said...

This is wonderful! I love it!!

What an impact we have on others.

Anonymous said...

Hearing how a treasured memory can become such an inspiration to others is wonderful! I know there were many other ways you have made an impact upon my girls in such a positive manner, with much ambition to go with it. They desire to be "flaming torches" and it makes me smile!