Those second graders

This is my fourth year at Columbia as their school chaplain. Seems impossible since I really had no idea what I was getting myself into when I signed on to go through the vetting process to become a chaplain. There was a 29-page application that asked about all the things I’ve ever done in my life. There was a financial background check to make sure I wasn’t an embezzler or had money issues. There were all the calls to my friends and co-workers who had to vouch for my character. The police even checked into my close relatives to make sure I didn’t live with or produce criminals. I sat down with a detective who is trained in questioning persons of interest and suspects. In the end, he commented that I was a really nice person and I would be perfect for the position.

The first class of first graders to whom I read and learned from is now in the fourth grade at Columbia. The students often come by and see me on the playground or in the front office, giving me hugs and high fives and asking for stickers or other prizes I might have in my bag of tricks. When they were second graders they begged me to come read to them as I had in first grade. That’s been the pattern ever since. The second graders wanted to continue the story-telling, but I never felt very comfortable with the second grade teachers. They seemed to eye me with suspicion.

A few weeks ago I was in the library when a second grade class was also there. Of course all of the students wanted to talk to me, show me their books, and beg me to come to their classroom. One of the boys asked the teacher, who is new to Columbia and very young, to invite me to their room. She seemed agreeable to that. She is warm and engaging and appears to really be good with the kids. We decided on a date to give it a try.

I had to find a book to read because these second graders have heard all the books from first grade. I pulled one from my own shelf, Katie Couric’s “The New Kid,” and worked up some talking points. I also pulled out a class-set of the police badge stickers that are like gold to the kids. I only hand them out to the first graders at the end of the year when I give them a certificate. I gave the sticker stash to the teacher to use as she saw fit. Many of the second graders said they still had theirs from last year.

The teacher and I met the next day to discuss how it went. She was very pleased and said the kids were motivated to go right back to the project they had set aside when I came in. She was willing to do it again. Fortunately, the school chaplain director, who is a retired principal, has started to produce a set of curriculum for second grade because more and more schools are asking their chaplain to continue beyond first grade. I will use some of those books in the next three months, probably once a month.


Some good news at school

Last week one of the tiniest first grade girls lamented to me, after lunch, that a second grade boy was calling her names. I told her to point him out to me the next day and I would talk with him. I came home and told Terry about the situation.

“If he’s in second grade, wasn’t he one of your first graders last year and learned how to be kind?”

“Maybe, but he might be new to the school and didn’t hear all those stories last year.” It did make me wonder if what I do makes any difference in the long run.

The next day she pointed out the name-caller, a boy I had never seen. I approached his lunch table, and sat across from him, wearing my uniform with all the police emblems and various pins.

“I’ve been told that you are being mean to one of the first graders, calling her names. Is that true?”

He put his head down for a moment then looked up at me and nodded. I pointed out to him that I had read stories to the first graders last year, but he wasn’t there.

“This is my first year here.” He named another school that doesn’t have a chaplain where he attended last year.

I turned to his neighbor, a boy who was at Columbia last year. “Do you remember what we talked about last year about calling people names.”

He turned to the other boy, and said, “we don’t do that.”

“Yeah, we don’t do that and I want you to stop. Can you do that.”

He nodded his head, yes. I told him I would be checking back in with him, then went and told the little girl that things should be better but to let me know if the little boy continued to bother her.

Fast forward to this week, when I sat with the little girl’s class for lunch. The second grade boy came by and gave me a hug. I asked him if he was doing well, and he nodded yes and smiled. I asked the little first grader how she was doing.


“No more trouble with the second grade boy?”


I’ll take every bit of good news I can get.


This morning a Facebook friend put out a request for more information about a small blurb she earlier caught on NPR while she drove to work. It had something to do with what we would take if our house was on fire. How lightly do we travel? That’s all she had.

Fortunately, another Facebook friend works for the local NPR station and was able to give her the link to the article and broadcast. It’s actually an interview with Ellen Burstyn and Amber Tamblyn who star in a new movie, Nostalgia. You can listen or read the piece here.

After reading the transcript, I really want to see this movie which is unusual for me as I’m not much of a movie-goer, but every now and then, a movie comes along that really moves me. This sounds like one to do that.

My mother would tell the story of the man hiking through the woods who came to a cabin. It was late and the cabin’s owner asked the hiker to spend the night, but there was so little in the cabin. A chair, a table, a bed. The owner said he would sleep on the floor and allow the visitor to take the bed.

The hiker appreciated the thoughtfulness after a long day’s hike, but was concerned about the man’s lack of furnishings. “Why do you have so little?”

The cabin owner replied with his own question, “Why do you travel so lightly, with just the pack on your back?”

“I’m just passing through,” replied the visitor.

“Me too,” replied the cabin owner.

My mother, who had very little, always said she was just passing through.

Christmas in February

One of The Ladies Who Lunch makes delicious candied/spiced nuts that she shares with us at Christmas time. She didn’t have them finished when we met in December and then forgot them when got together in January. She was very apologetic but I told her it was not a big deal, whenever she could get them to us would be fine. Last week, at our February lunch, she delivered.

As expected, the spiced pecans are delicious, and I’ve been enjoying them all week, munching on a few each time I pass the cute chest in which she delivered them. It’s a very Christmassy looking chest, and I normally don’t care to have holiday items left out, but this is one of those exceptions. It’s really nice having this treat in mid-February.

On another note, I saw my doctor on Wednesday. My blood pressure was lower, but not ideal. I was pleased with the improvement, but she seemed unimpressed. She required an EKG that showed my heart is in good shape. All my labs have good numbers. It’s just that blood pressure reading that won’t cooperate. I told her the story about the little first grader reporting the following week that I had died and come back to life.

“I hope he knows that you’re the only one who can do that!”

I have another drug to add to the previous blood pressure medicine and will return in a month to see how the numbers look. The doctor answered all my questions about what I can expect with the drug with the admonition to call her if I experience anything like that previous fainting spell. We laughed a lot (good medicine, in my book), and hugged as I left.


Thanks comes in many ways

Tuesday is Senior Citizen Day at Salvation Army Thrift Store which means I will get an additional 25 percent off of anything I buy. It’s usually the day I go to look for items for the kids at Columbia. The home liaison had mentioned the need for girl’s pants, and they can always use coats and backpacks. I found lots of things that fit the bill and when checking out, the cashier asked if I qualify for the senior discount, so I told her about my volunteer work in retirement. After ringing it all up, and giving me the senior discount, she thanked me profusely for what I was doing.

“So many kids don’t have people like you to do these things for them. And I know you don’t get much thanks from the kids (actually I do), so I want to tell you how much this means to me to hear what you do.”

How kind of her.

I delivered the items to school and learned they also needed girls’ underwear so I stopped at Target on my way back home and cleared out the clearance rack. When checking out, the cashier remarked that I must be stocking up at the good prices.

“Actually, these are going to a school where I volunteer. The office manager asked for some to have on hand.”

The cashier stopped, and asked, “what school?”

I told her and she actually knew where it is.

“Thank you for that. My daughter has gotten clean clothes from her school so many times. It means so much to me. She’s only in preschool, but she has accidents and they always take care of her.”

Glad to be of help.

A weekend of service

It’s been a marathon weekend. I walked 5 miles each day, and all within one building! Oh, and a few other steps from car to building, and up and down church aisles, but pretty much all done in the confines of the fellowship hall and kitchen of our church.

There was a memorial service on Saturday for a long-time member whose family is quite involved with the local presbytery and its outreach. I spent Friday buying flowers and setting tables for the luncheon following the service on Saturday. Fortunately, the food was catered so I only had to set out platters, bowls and serving pieces. There were a number of others from the deacon board who assisted.

My husband made the coffee and set up that beverage area and then spent the rest of the day doing dishes. It’s hard to believe there can be so many dishes to wash when you are using disposables, but all those serving pieces, including 24 pitchers for water and iced tea, needed to be cleaned.

The memorial service had a smaller than expected crowd so there was a lot of food left over–sandwiches and salads and a few desserts, even iced tea and strawberry lemonade. I had sent boxes of food home with the family on Saturday, but still had plenty so decided to offer it up to Sunday’s congregants for after-church coffee fellowship.

I had signed up weeks ago to serve coffee fellowship on this particular Sunday, not realizing I would also be responsible for a luncheon on the previous day. It worked out well, though, as I had to only provide a few more desserts. Another member brought a pot of soup so we had an abundance of food. Lots of church attendees came over after the service and enjoyed a delicious meal and good conversation around the tables.

All of the food was eaten! Terry again washed dishes. I was able to get all the flower vases put away. As we were leaving, the kitchen cleaned and ready for the next event, a group was still sitting at one of the tables, doing church business. I was glad we could be of service.

It’s a miracle

On Thursday I was back in the first grade classroom where I fainted the last time there. We always discuss the previous week’s story before launching into a new book. This time we discussed all that happened last week:

  • It was the 100th Day of School
  • The story was about Jake forgetting his project and asking for help
  • The students finished their Star Chart (a behavioral tool I use)
  • The class got a prize for completing the Star Chart
  • The class got a sticker for the 100th Day of School
  • Mrs. Zody died and came back to life

That was the first grader’s take on the day! We talked more about fainting and how it wasn’t the same as dying, but they were determined that I had died and Mrs. Pierson, their teacher, had brought me back to life!

I complimented them on how well they behaved when the emergency happened and how well their teacher handled the whole thing. A friend of mine had said, upon hearing the story, that was a good teacher who could handle a group of first graders and take care of an unconscious chaplain! It’s a miracle!