By RHONDA SCHROCK
It was a privilege, really, to enter their world. The sight of those squirming 6-year-olds on the story rug was a very bright spot on a cold, wintry day.
It was February, Reading Month. A local television station had issued a contest for area schools, encouraging students to read, and the kindergarten classes had jumped in with both feet.
A packet had come home in a small, red backpack. “Read like crazy.” That was the upshot. “And record your minutes.”
There was, I’d noted briefly, an invitation to be guest reader for a day in an effort to pump it up and get parents involved. It was, frankly, an opportunity I’d skipped over, having been buried lately beneath an avalanche of work. Until.
Until, that is, the best salesman in the world pressed the point. When a VSP (Very Small Person) with a double crown and eyes of blue uses all that charm on you, resistance is futile. Then, when he throws a dimple in yet, waving the white flag is automatic. It just is. And that’s how I found myself breaking away from work one dreary afternoon to sit in the rocking chair with a batch of bright-eyed, wriggly kindergartners on the story rug before me.
Little Schrock had done the choosing, carefully laying out his favorite books the night before. “Hogwash” by Karma Wilson and “The Big Road Race” with the Berenstain Bears had been read many times, and to him, they never got old.
As it turned out, his friends loved them, too. “I love the Berenstain Bears!” someone, a small blond fellow with wavy hair, enthused. They sat, riveted, as Little Red, the smallest, most unlikely car, won the race. Then, with rapt attention, they listened to “Hogwash,” a delightful rhyming tale of a farmer and his dirty hogs in need of a wash.
Looking at them, I felt it. There before me, arranged in ragged rows at my feet, sat the innocence of childhood, clothed in blue jeans and T-shirts. Childlike joy all done up in ponytails and colored barrettes. Happiness crowned with a rooster tail here, an untied shoelace there.
These were precious days, precious times. Here in kindergarten, a story in which pigs talked and hand lettered signs for the farmer was perfectly credible and eagerly received. Here, every Crayola was packed with promise, and Robin Hood was real.
In kindergarten, a fellow could lark off to school, clad in small, green tights; a woodland shirt; and a jaunty hat with a bright orange feather, and fit right in. He could spend an entire day like that, surrounded by classmates in costumes, and count it a highlight of his school career. Then, when a big brother stopped by at noon, he could munch lunch with his sibling, still wearing his green tights, unaware of what a blessing he was. Or, for that matter, how much he was blessed.
Perhaps, I thought, we should all be 6 for a day. Six, before the cares of life set in. Six, and secure in who you were and where you belonged. To be 6 with no fear of the future and simple joy in the present.
Today, I’m thinking of those faces, minds eager to learn, hearts largely untouched by disappointment and pain. Thinking, too, of that kindergarten room where life, basic and plain, is taught day by day. A, B, C and 1, 2, 3. Clean up your stuff. Put the colors away. Keep your hands to yourself. Share with your neighbor. Raise your hand, wait your turn and don’t run in the halls.
I remember, too, the words of Someone who was once 6 himself. Who took on flesh and bone. Who walked in our shoes. Who spoke this truth one day as he taught, “Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Sitting here, I recall the faith of my own 6-year-old son. Last spring, he bowed his head, closed his eyes and lisped the prayer that counts for sure. Having felt the knock, he threw wide the door to his heart and bade Him enter.
I remember the love for the Saviour that flooded his tiny frame. Love that drew pictures of the trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in green Crayola. Even now, a lump rises in my throat as I think of it. Proudly, he showed me his artwork, carefully naming each one. “This is Jesus. This is the Spirit, and this is God.” This, as he touched a pointer finger to a green, stick arm where I noted some extra scribbles.
He looked at me then with those clear, blue eyes, and he finished. “God has muscles,” he said.
Oh, my friends. In a complicated world, it’s truly that simple: Jesus loves. Jesus saves, and God, He has muscles.
Perhaps we cannot all be 6 for a day, but we can choose to have a 6-year-old’s faith. We can live 6-year-old love that waits our turn, shares our stuff and forgives other people. We can, even though we’re not 6.