Posted tagged ‘fourth grade’

Alphabet Sighs

December 14, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                  December 14, 2016

                                         

The fourth grade class I had been assigned to be the tutor for was walking back to the classroom from recess. One of the students walked beside me and said, “Your last name is Wolfe. Mine is Woods! I wish they didn’t go in alphabetical order so much of the time. I guess we’re mostly last, aren’t we?”

“Yes, I suppose we are,” I replied. I could tell that she saw me as an end-of-the-alphabet kindred spirit.

“I wish they would go by first names, because mine starts with a “C”… Colleen!”

“And I’m a “B”…Bill! There aren’t too many first names before me, just “A’s” like Adam or Angela and then some of the “B’s” like Bob and Bonnie.”

“Bob and Bonnie would actually come after Bill.”

“Oh, you’re right! My bad!” She gave me some grace, probably figuring that, with my age, I sometimes got confused when it came to vowels and such.

She was ready to continue about her last name woes. “It just seems that when anything gets handed out I’m always the last one to receive mine. We have no X, Y, or Z’s in our class. Last week in music class the teacher was handing out instruments to people…alphabetically! Guess who got stuck with two sticks to hit together? Lame!”

“And when I order lunch that gets delivered to our classroom I’m always the last one to receive it.”

“There’s got to be something good about being at the end of the alphabet. Like if someone brings cookies to class and they get handed out, but there are extras when it comes to the end of the alphabet!”

“Well, first of all, we’re a healthy snack school so you can forget about the cookies! And second, it’s more likely that there wouldn’t be ENOUGH of whatever snack it is instead of too many! Thus…another slap in the face to a W!”

“Jesus said the last shall be first and the first shall be last.”

“He wasn’t thinking about fourth graders when he said it, though!”

“Think about all the people through the years whose last name started with a W!” Woodrow Wilson, Oprah Winfrey, Daniel Webster, George Washington…”

“John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Abraham, Alexander the Great!”

She had me stumped and speechless, plus I was somewhat taken back by the fact that she knew who Alexander the Great was.

“Think of it this way. A “W” is a strong letter, a good letter. When the Chicago Cubs win a game they fly a flag with a big “W” on it. “W” is a letter of celebration. It indicates a winner, and you, Colleen, are a winner!”

She looked up at me as we were just about to enter the classroom. “I guess you’re right, Mr. Wolfe. I mean I know it’s your job to make me feel good about myself and all that, but I think you might be right. “W” could stand for a lot of good things, like “Wow” and “Willy Wonka.”

“And you know, Colleen, when there is some kind of processional march it is always the most important people who march in last!”

She stopped for a moment to let another student pass her, and also in order to be the last one to enter back into class. “Thanks, Mr. Wolfe! I think you are another “W”…wise!”

Three Moms

May 8, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            May 8, 2016

                                         

It’s Mother’s Day, a day where we gloat over our moms and tell them how wonderful they are. Let’s be honest! Moms don’t get the credit or appreciation they deserve. We load up the applaud one day a year for them even though they took care of loaded-up diapers many, many days for many, many years.

I’ve had many unofficial moms through the years who have encouraged me, fed me, and hugged on me, but I’d like to pay tribute to three moms for different reasons.

The first mom would be my own…Virginia Wolfe! Yes, that was my mom’s name! She was possessed by stubbornness and gifted with compassion. Stubborn compassion, quite a mix. If there was someone in need that she could take care of she would do what needed to be done in spite of protests. With Mom there were no questions to be asked. If she decided to take a pot of chicken soup to Mrs. Swallow, our eighty-something next door neighbor widow in Williamstown, West Virginia, she did it. Our neighbors through the years were cared for. Growing up on a farm in Eastern Kentucky, my mom was used to having neighbors who took care of one another, no questions asked.

She was loyal. Her patronage of businesses was not based on who had the lowest price, but rather on friendship, being treated with respect, and loyalty. For years, she traveled forty-five minutes to have the same man do her hair, because that’s what you did.

She raised three children, all with vey different personalities, and, although we frequently didn’t agree with her, we respected and loved her deeply. She’s been gone now for two and a half years. I’ll visit her grave site next month and cherish the memories once again.

The second mom is my wife, Carol. What an incredible woman! In many ways she is like her own mom, Barbara Faletti. Fairly conservative, not prone to extravagance when it involved herself, but very giving when it involves others. The Mother’s Day card I give her today will cause her to scold me a little bit for spending the four dollars. The attached chocolate to it will simmer the scold a bit.

Even harder than being a pastor is being a pastor’s spouse. For thirty-six years, until this past December 31, that’s who she was. The number of evenings where she shared a meal with three kids but no husband can not be calculated. In the valleys and mountains of ministry she walked beside me.

Carol is a champion for those who are afflicted with diminished capacities of various kinds. She works with special needs middle school students. She hung out with a six year old autistic boy at Awana Club this year. She walks alongside a few of her friends who have suffered serious health crises. Although she enjoys watching some of the reality TV shows that I gag on, we’re on the same page in most of our preferences and likes. She loves her grandkids deeply. If you checked her cell phone you would find a video library of “grandkid clips” that include one year old Corin walking across the room, Jesse playing soccer or hurling himself at the player he’s defending in basketball, and Reagan singing, dancing, or just looking gosh darn cute!

Our three children love and respect her deeply. They know that the greatest gifts they can give her are the relationships they already have with her. She is a special woman who gets me to “wise up” in various ways. She’s the “clue” in my “cluelessness.”

The third mom is my oldest daughter, Kecia. Just as my mom had three children, and Carol has three children, Kecia is now the mom to a trio. She is the steady influence to the three. I see my mom in her in terms of keeping her kids on task, and I see Carol in her in regards to her compassionate side. I stopped by her fourth grade classroom for a few moments this past week and it was evident how much her students admire and love her. She’s like their “teacher-mom”, concerned for each one of them, thrilled with their progress, saddened by their heartaches.

Just as my mom and Carol have been steady influences and engaged parents, Kecia is that steady influence in a culture that often teeters on the the edge of chaos.

I am blessed to have lived, and now live in a home where laughter is as frequent as dancing granddaughters, and dressed-up super hero grandsons. “The Moms” are as essential to that as Miracle Whip on my hamburger!

Thank you, Lord, for the mom who has gone before me, the mom who walks with me, and the mom who is delighting me.

Doing Dumb, Meeting Grace

July 27, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                             July 27, 2015

                                          

When I was in fourth grade I had a friend named Terry who was a bit rougher around the edges then me. Terry even would let a cuss word flow from his lips from time to time. He would walk the line between what was acceptable behavior and what was reform school acts.

And I hung around with him!

In some odd way I thought it made me took tougher. “Don’t mess with me! Do you see who I’m hanging around with?”

And so it was on a nice spring day at the close of school. Terry and I were leaving Williamstown Elementary to head home and we noticed thee was a kickball game going on at the school playground. We loved kickball, so we stopped and joined in the game. There is nothing better for a fourth grader than kickball after school…unsupervised!

We’d been playing a while when Terry kicked the ball to the outfield, but a player on the other team made a nice catch for an out. Terry let loose with an expletive!

Unfortunately, one of the fifth grade teachers, a beautiful lady named Mrs. Davidson, was walking by when the four letter word entered our world and she stopped and in a very nice way told him not to use language like that again.

“Yes, ma’am!”

End of story!

No!

My fourth grade bravado raised its ugly head, and with pumped-out chest I did dumb! I yelled down the sidewalk at Mrs. Davidson as she strolled away from school. “What are you going to to about it, you old bag?”

Don’t ask me why I chose that moment to be a tough guy, but I can still see Mrs. Davidson doing a sharp U-turn and heading back towards a fourth grader who was now completely void of bravado. I was trying to hit the rewind button on my mouth to no avail. The condemned prisoner was about to be executed.

Her words were direct and clearly communicated. “Let’s go see Mr. Morton!”

Not Mr. Morton! Mr. Morton was our school principal. His first name was Shirley, which, I believed, caused him to approach students in a gruffer way. He is the only male I have ever known who was named Shirley, and it is a name that still strikes fear in me. Mr. Morton had snow white hair, was short and thick and carried a big paddle.

Mrs. Davidson escorted the two of us, Terry and me…the condemned about to die, to the principal’s office. Mr. Morton warmed our behinds quickly. It was “bun warming” redefined!

Terry and I walked funny all the way home. It took a good bit of acting on my part, but I never let on with my mom and dad that my backside was a bit sensitive to sit on at dinner time.

“How was school today?”

      “Great…awesome! I got a 100% on my spelling test!”

     I had done dumb and dumbness has a way of rippling through you for a while afterwards. I got a glass of water with ice a bit later, went in the bathroom and tried to cool my behind with the ice cubes. It didn’t work! I slept on my stomach that night. Never again did I call one of my teachers an old bag.

Two weeks later on a Sunday morning I had my junior usher suit on at First Baptist Church of Williamstown. I was on duty, ready to hand out bulletins and help collect the offering. I was looking like a nice Christian fourth grade boy who was serving Jesus.

And then Mrs. Davidson walked in with her husband, who was the high school wrestling coach. My Cheerios started to rise from my stomach. I turned as red as a beet! And Mrs. Davidson looked at me and with a smile on her face said “Good morning!”

With a squeaky high voice I responded “Good morning!”, handed a bulletin to her.

“Thank you!” She smiled at me in a forgiving way. My eyes spoke repentance, and I met was introduced to grace.

The Davidson’s became a part of our church, but never once did she mention my transgression. Grace moved us past it…and I will always be thankful!

Experiencing Grace On the Way To See Grace

April 28, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                 April 28, 2013

My first words were actually “Oh, crap!”

The flashing lights came on as the Highway Patrol car was approaching me going the other direction. I was heading to my great niece Gracie’s soccer game.

On my way to see Grace!”

I pulled over to the side of the river road and waited. The Highway Patrol female trooper came up to my passenger side window. I already had my driver’s license in my hand ready to grovel and look financially destitute.

Did you see those wild turkeys heading up the hillside there?”

Huh? I was expecting “License and registration please.”

No, I didn’t see them.”

Yes, several of them”, she added, turning towards the roadside slope to our right. I glanced up the hill and caught sight of the bird moving higher.

Got an idea of the speed limit on this stretch of road?”

Here it comes.

Yes. It’s fifty-five, and I believe I was doing sixty-five.”

True confession is good for the soul. For some reason it made my sin seem more plausible, more normal.

Sixty-seven.”

Oh!”

Do you have many problems with speeding?”

No,” I thought, “it comes natural.” Instead of saying that however I started in on the disclaimers.

Not usually, but I’m driving my dad’s Buick that has a little more get-up-and-go than my car.”

What do you drive?”

A Civic.”

Oh!”

And then I added “Hybrid!” to further explain my unfamiliarity with a vehicle that actually has engine power.

Colorado. I’ve got a brother that lives in Colorado.”

Really! Where at?” This speeding violation is taking an interesting turn in the conversation.

West of Colorado Springs. He says he can step out his front door and see Pike’s Peak.”

Woodland Park?”

I believe that’s it!”

I’m thinking, “Will this take $25 off my traffic ticket?”

He says half of the time that people get stopped there is because the law enforcement is looking for marijuana…with the whole legalized thing going on.”

Yes, ma’am!”I reply as I shake my head in a kind of “what’s the world coming to” kind of expression.

Do you have any relatives in Wheelersburg?” she asked as she surveyed my driver’s license.

No, ma’am! However, I did grow up in Ironton!”So some reason I thought creating ties with my growing up roots would cancel out my excessive speeding to get to a fourth grade girl’s soccer game.

Well…Mr. Wolfe, I’m going to give you a warning about your speed today. You need to be careful and go a little bit slower. Okay?”

I agree. I’ll make sure I’m more careful.”

She took my license and my Dad’s registration back to the cruiser and ran a check on them to make sure I wasn’t a convicted runaway felon on the lam. I waited, knowing that I was, as my grandfather used to say, “Guilty as sin!” Regardless of the power of my Dad’s car, or the justification that driving to my great niece’s soccer game should cancel out breaking the law, or even though I had been in church last Sunday (I had to be. I was giving the sermon!), a blazing pink speeding ticket should have been the rightful ending of the situation.

Mr. Wolfe, I hope the rest of your visit goes well.”

Thank you.”

I can’t believe those wild turkeys. You take care now.”

Thank God for wild turkeys to break the ice in conversation starters between grace-givers and law-breakers.

I slowly made my way to Gracie’s soccer game. I watched her with new eyes, not focused on her missed kicks, or other evidences of not achieving soccer perfection as a ten year old, but rather I focused on the fun she was experiencing playing a game and laughing with her teammates. As some of the adults watching shouted their disappointment in the mistakes of their sons and daughters who were playing on the field, my vision was on a Grace who was giggling. Perhaps I was able to see the upside of her soccer skills a little bit more because I had just experienced grace when I was on the downside.

On the way back to Dad’s place I watched my speedometer…and also saw the wild turkeys.