Monday, September 17, 2007

Adventures in Preschool

I had an interesting (and by "interesting" I mean "nightmare-ish") time volunteering at the preschool downtown this past week. So many moments came down to a battle between my flesh and my spirit . . . because, while I know that these kids need grace and love, my own anger and frustration with them kept getting in the way. Let me explain . . .

On Tuesday when I walked through the doors, I was greeted with loving choruses of surprised "you came back!" from the kids. This is my standard greeting from the 45 - three to five year-olds who go to school here. I keep wondering how many times I have to come back before they will cease to be surprised by my return. I am making my rounds: hugging the kids, wiping noses, and helping them eat their breakfast when Ms. Smith (one of the teachers) asked if I could watch the kids while they had a "quick meeting" I smile and answer (naturally) "of course"....

I gather the kids (all 45 of them)and we play a rousing game of "Simon Says", which the kids don't really understand (they do anything I say regardless of whether or not I tell them "simon says") and which lasts all of about 15 minutes, before disintegrating into mass chaos. Before I know what has happened, kids are running around with no regard for furniture, sound limits or boundaries of any sort, banging on the piano, literally throwing punches at each other. At all times at least 3 children are bawling and clinging to my legs and arms . . . my stern pleas to "sit down", "calm down" and "please be quiet" don't even phase them. My shirt is stretched out, I'm covered in tears and grime and my muscles ache from carrying at least 2 kids every moment - and my hair resembles a bird's nest because I let the kids "braid" my hair when i realized it was the only thing that seemed to entertain them and keep them quiet . . .

Two and a half HOURS later the teachers finish their meeting just in time for lunch and nap time . . . I left that day exhausted and more than a little frustrated.

Grudgingly (after a lot of sleep and a nice long shower), I decide to go back to the preschool on Thursday. Now, Thursday was actually a pretty good day - until one of the little boys decided to literally slap me across the face . . . I stare at the five-year old in shock: the hard set of his jaw contrasts sharply with his innocent gap-tooth grin - but it is the question in his eyes that betrays him. Suddenly, I realize that he's testing me, pushing me - wondering if I really meant it when I hugged him and told him I'm proud, wondering if I'll really come back yet again.

Like Peter, I am ready to throw up my hands in exasperation - forgiving SEVEN times is surely enough, I'm poised to run out the door straight back to suburbia, where no one will slap my face or bruise my ego. But the Lord gently reminds me "not seven times, but seventy-seven times" and I realize that I WILL come back . . . because I still have a lot of forgiving and loving to do.

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