(Photograph by Dayle)
Jerry was an unfriendly child, and a bit of a prankster. Every Sunday, he wandered aimlessly into the classroom where a handful of youngsters gathered.
Plopping into his chair, Jerry would let out a yawn, with as much gusto as possible for a six-year-old to muster. Then appearing bored, he would frame his face in his hands, wrinkle his forehead, and stare blankly at the ceiling
No amount of coaxing from the teacher succeeded in getting Jerry's attention; he appeared perfectly content at being her "thorn in the flesh."
But by the time the Bible story began, Jerry—as if on cue—would mysteriously unwind from his daydreaming posture and become the class clown. This produced a euphoric reaction among his classmates. Giggles from the girls. Cackles from the boys. An atmosphere closely resembling chaos prevailed.
Close to tears, the teacher would try to bring the little group to order, but how could she compete with such antics as snickering, snorting, and belching—which Jerry so often rendered? Finally, at her wit's end, she resigned.
And that's when my mother became Jerry's teacher. She was cautioned aplenty by the former teacher: "You're going to have a lot of trouble with Jerry; he is so stubborn."
Although she keeps it well disguised, my mother is a bit stubborn herself. Time would tell whether or not she could manage Jerry.
With much prudence, Mother did nothing with Jerry for the first few weeks. But she had a plan. Mother always has a plan. Finally the day arrived; it was time to see if Jerry was salvageable.
With their usual clamor, the little tykes rambled into the tiny classroom and noisily took their seats. A brooding Jerry brought up the rear—looking irritated, naturally. After seating himself abruptly, he let out a yawn, followed by a thunderous belch.
Contemplatively, Mother busied herself as the youngsters settled in. Then she stood—activity sheets in hand—and said, "Jerry, would you please pass out the activity sheets for me today?" flashing him a disarming smile.
Jerry could not believe his ears. With a stunned countenance, he took the papers from this strange new teacher, carefully distributed them, then returned to his chair, his demeanor suddenly subdued and reverent.
That was the beginning of a happy ending. Every Sunday, Mother leaned on Jerry more and more. He became her right-hand man, if you will. And he began to blossom. His interest in the class went from zero to totally off the charts. Jerry was a new man.
When asked how she did it, Mother said it appeared that all Jerry needed was to be appreciated, to be needed. Instead of constantly telling him what not to do—don't talk, don't slouch, don't interrupt—she told him something to do.
As simple as this sounds, it holds a ton of truth. No matter how ill-behaved, every child possesses a redeeming quality. Search diligently for it. And when you find it, regardless of how insignificant it may seem, it should be nurtured with the greatest of care.
"Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, ye have done it unto me."
(Matthew 25:40, KJV)
This post is part of the weekly series, "Spiritual Sundays," hosted by Charlotte and Ginger.