Archive for May 2023

Eighth Grade Dance

May 21, 2023

It was one of those occasions rumored to have magical qualities to it, a night when 14-year-olds are transformed into resembling handsome and beautiful adults. The eighth grade end-of-the-year dance is a cheap imitation of the high school prom. “Cheap” is not to give the impression that it’s like a Gucci knock-off bought from a street vendor, but rather it’s got a cheap price tag attached to it compared to what these young teens will one day dish out for their proms. There were no limos or tuxedos. In fact, two boys arrived wearing matching Hawaiian shirts and shorts to compliment their sunglasses, which would come in handy in the midst of a darkened dance surface.

Many of the masses of adolescence weren’t used to wearing shirts-and-ties or nice-looking dress shoes or heels. Towards the end of the evening, shoes were being rested like thoroughbreds needing water. I heard the moans: “My feet hurt so much!” “I hate the straps on these heels!” “Why did I wear these?”

Boys displayed shirts saturated in the armpit areas with gigantic sweat stains, a sign of their emerging masculinity. One boy from my class wore a toboggan hat to accessorize his suit. Young girls with heavy make-up still possessed with the same giggles roamed back-and-forth in packs. Others nervously stood around, hoping someone wearing a tie would ask them to dance, but also fearing the same question. After all, what if Johnny, who gets on their nerves and has breath that could kill a cow, asks for the next song and it ends up being one of those numbers that requires close bodily-proximity?

And then there were those who frequented the concession stand that I was working. Five-dollar-bills were burning holes in the pockets of their trousers. “Lincolns” would be handed over in exchange for a Coke, Sour Skittles, Starburst, a Kit-Kat, and a bag of Takis. We kept everything a dollar to simplify the math. No one was taken in by my “Yes, a Coke is a buck, or two for three!” One health-conscious young lady checked the number of grams of sugar in a bottle of Strawberry Lemonade, compared a bottle of Gatorade with it, and then went with the one that was only slightly more than the recommended daily limit of sugar grams.

There were disappointed romantics, surprised-accepted invitations, and future hope. By the end of the night there was a sense of sadness. As school staff ushered the students toward the exit doors, they didn’t want to leave. It was the end of an event, a new memory, that they didn’t want to end. For some, it was the realization that middle school, a place that they whined about and moaned their way through many a day, was also a good place, a place of refuge that they were about to graduate from.

They had longed for this time, but now a strange kind of grief was being felt. They might not remember the major battles of the Civil War, but they would remember the moments that punctuated the past year, the rights and wrongs, friends and foes, blunders and blessings.

And now they would be the new rookies roaming the hallways of new schools where no one knew of their past accomplishments…or, in a good way, their mistakes.

When Friends Expect More Than You’re Able To Give

May 13, 2023

I am not a spiritual giant. I’m not even sure how a person qualifies what that title means. Sometimes people see that I have “Rev” in front of my name and they assume certain things that are real reaches grasping to be true. 

However, the One Who knows all things, and is able to do all things, has taught me in the moments and pauses of life about limitations and possibilities. The latest revelation came in the midst of a Facebook post of a high school friend of mine, who has faced several serious medical situations. We haven’t seen each other in 40 years, but she reads my “Words From WW”, and, over the years, has commented a few times . In one of her recent posts, she referenced the medical difficulties she has been facing, and then put my name right in the middle of the post paragraph. She expresses her confidence in my commitment to be praying for her. 

Proverbs 3:5 tells us to”Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” I’ve been doing a lot of leaning since reading her petition for prayer. I can’t get it out of my mind. 

The problem is one of energy, or lack of. It’s the last two weeks of the unplanned for school year. I’ve been teaching eight-graders almost the entire year. Just as I did at the end of a two-mile race in my high school track days, I’m seeing the finish line of the school year. In track I would find the energy to break into a sprint…and then collapse immediately after crossing. Of course, I was 17 or 18 at the time. Sprinting was still a possibility. Now I’m 69 and the closest I’m coming to a sprint is my run to the restroom in the four minutes between classes. 

The tank is on empty and there isn’t a reserve tank. And now my friend is asking for prayer support, which brings to mind another friend of mine who is also having some serious health problems, and another whose hope is firmly in the Lord in the midst of heart problems. And that brings to mind someone else…and someone else. You get the picture! It’s as if the Lord is putting people in front of me in the midst of my exhaustion. What’s up with that?

When much is expected of you but you have nothing to give, there is an urgency to lean upon the One who has the answer and who is the Answer. He is sufficient in the dryness of my inadequacies. He is able to do what I could never do. Praying for someone is more than just pleading. It’s surrendering. I’m depleted, but He is the Plenty. In a culture that believes a person makes his own way and makes things happen, that is a foreign concept, a thought from some alien civilization, but it is also the reality. I have no answers, just leaning on Him.

It’s like that final stretch of my high school two-mile race, except this time I’m finding that it is the One who has the power Who is carrying me in that final sprint.

Creepy Doll Visit

May 6, 2023

It is crawling towards the end of the school year and students have the ability to nod off at a moment’s notice. After all, they’ve stayed up late into the night, burning the oil in the kerosene lamps perched on their desks, fighting off sleep as they battle through the linear algebra problems.

What am I talking about??? They’ve stayed up late, munching on Flaming Hot Cheetos and drinking Mountain Dew while texting “OMG” and “LOL” to the universe. They see the end of the school year as a separation line where they will be able to sleep in until 1 PM after playing meaningless games on their video game systems until 3 AM.

So I brought Creepy Doll to school!

Creepy Doll would cause Chucky to run away! Her left eye drifts off to the side and her right eye has that zombie-look to it. She’s been through a few battles, is about 50 years old…and looks like a character from a Stephen King novel. So I brought her to school and sat her at one of the desks with her hands propped on the desktop.

Sleepy-eyed students, arriving for their first core class, were suddenly wide-awake as Creepy Doll stared at them with one eye. When I placed Creepy Doll in my lap, just like I do with my year-and-a-half old grandson, a few of them reacted as if they were watching Friday the 13th. Actually, it was only Friday the 5th.

When I suddenly became a bad ventriloquist and started having a two-way conversation with Creepy Doll, one girl’s mouth dropped open, while another covered her eyes in the horror of the situation.

But no one slept, out of fear that Creepy Doll would dance her way over to their desk and bring them into a new episode of The Twilight Zone.

This is not the first time Creepy Doll has shown up in one of my classrooms. She was a frequent in-class fixture two years ago when the students were in school remotely. I made her one of my in-class “replacement students”. As students logged in from their home situations, I’d have conversations with her and turn my laptop so that she could be seen by the horrified 13-year-olds at home.

Most of the time, I place a blonde mullet wig on her head, but I couldn’t find that part of her character in our basement, so she showed up bald, spooky, and looking for a victim.

Next week, I’ll bring my Furby. Actually, my kids’ Furby from three decades ago. In the midst of class he/she/it will suddenly utter weird words and stare with those big eyes.

Creepy Doll will retreat back down to our basement, hidden underneath some of our accumulated “stuff”. But, a certain person at school, who has some history with Creepy Doll, put the finishing touches on the day’s guest appearance. I came back into my classroom to see that my friend had made a sign and posted it beside Creepy Doll in the chair by her desk. The sign said: “I’m a Psycho!”