Dial 911 for the Show and Tell Police?

Stephanie at 5 Stephanie at age 5

Do you know any 5-year-olds? A new, all-day program has brought 100 of them to my school this year. To say that they’ve made an impact on the school year would be an understatement. They are passionate, affectionate, and full of energy. Races must be won, and nearly everything is a race! Whether it’s the color of a crayon, their spot in line, or the thrill of finding just the right book in the library–every aspect of their day is nearly a matter of life and death. A case in point–the second week of school, one of these kindergarteners was inconsolable at the discovery that someone she thought was her friend didn’t like the same book she did! How could they possibly stay friends?

Another kindergartener reminds me of my daughter, Stephanie, when she was five. I’ll call him Matthew. On his first trip to the library, he wandered around looking lost until he finally said, “All I really want to read are some Bible stories. Do you have any Bible stories?” Thankfully, we had some nice, new Bible stories to show him. For weeks after that, he’d come up to me on the playground on his library day and say, “Guess what I’m going to check out today!” His enthusiasm for Bible stories could not be contained.

Stephanie was just like that, but her venue was “Show and Tell.” For about two minutes every Monday morning, she got to share some aspect of her life that was important to her. Week after week, she’d bring a craft from her Sunday school class, tell a story about singing with the children’s choir in front of the whole church, or share the wonder of carrying a real candle in the beautiful Santa Lucia pageant held every year during Advent. Her enthusiasm for church could not be contained.

This continued until her teacher nervously approached me and told me that she was afraid she’d get in trouble if Stephanie kept this up. The district “frowned on religion in the classroom.” There is a lot I could say about that (and probably will in future blog posts!), but suffice it to say that in this case, I think that the teacher (who is no longer in the district) was, hopefully, a little misinformed, or needlessly afraid. After all, the idea behind “Show and Tell” was to help others get to know them a little better–to encourage understanding. It was a chance to get personal. To share what you thought was important. To reveal what made you, you. To anyone with “ears to hear,” that’s exactly what Stephanie was doing.

Back then, Stephanie’s classroom of five-year-olds wasn’t nearly the diverse place that Matthew is experiencing now. The group of 100 kindergarteners is made up of Asians, Pacific Islanders, African Americans, Hispanics, and Caucasians. Every major religion is probably represented. I like to think that if Stephanie’s class had been this diverse, her enthusiasm for her church might have encouraged the Muslim students to share about Ramadan, or why they cover their heads every day with beautiful headscarves. Maybe Buddhist students would have showed their golden necklaces they often wear that depict Buddha, and told a story about who Buddha was. Maybe the kids would have learned something about their actual community. I’m hoping that Matthew, in his enthusiasm for the Bible, is helping other kids feel free to explore their own faith backgrounds. We have some nice, new books for them, too!

When religion is treated like something to fear or be embarrassed about, or worse, like a bad word, we discredit the life experiences and deeply held beliefs and values of much of society. We may not agree on fundamentals, but we all can learn something about each other, right? Wouldn’t that be the neighborly thing to do?

As for that impact being made by the 100 five-year-olds in my school? I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m hoping to catch some of their passion and energy, and share Christ–by showing love and kindness and patience–with an enthusiasm that can not be contained.

May God bless all the Christians in the public schools as they “. . .shine like stars in the universe” and “hold out the word of life. . ..”  (Philippians 2:15).

About Sonja Anderson

I write novels and picture books for children, and occasionally an article or short story for adults, too. I grew up in Ohio, and I have lived in Chicago, Connecticut, Boston, Tokyo, and Seattle. The beautiful Pacific Northwest inspires me every day.
This entry was posted in Being a Good Neighbor, Faith and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Dial 911 for the Show and Tell Police?

  1. Debbie Austin says:

    Sonja, I so look forward to your posts on Sunday mornings! I love this: “I’m hoping to catch some of their passion and energy, and share Christ–by showing love and kindness and patience–with an enthusiasm that can not be contained.” Thanks for sharing. You’ve inspired me.

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    • Thank you, Debbie for taking the time to comment! I have to admit that this piece was written as much for myself as anyone else. Last week was a difficult week in terms of “showing love and kindness and patience,” so I needed to remind myself why I want to be in the school in the first place–to show as many kids as possible the love of Christ!

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  2. Jim Presti says:

    Sonja,

    What a beautiful piece you have written!

    Annita

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  3. Cinda Lium says:

    I love the way you explain it- think we had it right back in kindergarten:)

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  4. Dr. Rick Anderson says:

    This is refreshing and well-written (as usual) Sonja, and I’m especially glad to see the open-minded attitude you convey. Our world is full of diversity; celebrating community, rather than fearing that sharing one’s beliefs will offend others, is a noble goal. I wonder how kids, teachers and parents would deal with more disparate issues (e.g. atheist protestations, Wicca, fundamentalists), some of which may seek to divide.

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    • Interesting comment, as usual, Dr. Rick! It’s probably fear of how to handle the more divisive issues that keep a lot of us from wading into this territory in the first place–it’s a lot easier to just say that we can’t talk about this at all! Unfortunately, that only serves to build up and fortify some of the walls between us as people that aren’t necessary. I’m hoping that by talking about these things, and writing books like Sophie Topfeather, we can see that we can hold strong opinions, and yet we can still get to know each other, and love and respect each other, as neighbors, classmates, and co-workers. I reject the idea that we all have to pretend that our faith doesn’t really matter that much in order to get along.

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  5. Elaine says:

    I enjoyed this post, Sonja! I have some of those wonderful first graders that so freely share their faith during Show and Tell! I don’t have the diverse classroom as the little one in your blog post; but, I do enjoy the theology discussions that often take place.

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    • How wonderful, Elaine! I’m glad you get to share those moments with your class. Kids aren’t nearly as afraid as us grown-ups to share what is important to us. Thanks for sharing your comment!

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    • By the way, Elaine, I’m glad to hear that Show and Tell is still “a thing” in the classroom! As I wrote the blog post, I was wondering if that was something that has gone by the wayside in education altogether.

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