Seven-year-old Michael is falling behind his first-grade classmates in reading. The school asked our church to help and I am excited to be a part.
It has been a long time since I worked with a sweet little boy. (My last reading student was twenty-something.) Now and then I speak of things outside Michael’s understanding. His innocent,“Huh?” sets me back and makes me rethink my sentence structure or even my subject.
Two weeks ago I mentioned that school would be closed for Thanksgiving.
“Huh? What’s that?”
“Thanksgiving. You don’t know about Thanksgiving?”
He shook his head so I explained, “In America (because his family is from Haiti) we have a holiday when we give thanks to God for all he has done for us.”
“Will he be there?”
Whoa, that set me back! “Who, God? Well, no, not in person. But we will pray to him and he will hear us.”
I’ve been thinking about this all week. As a Christian, I surely should give a better answer. Feeling like a teacher, I wanted to delve into the pilgrim story. Pressed for time, I simply let it go.
“We’ll have a special meal to celebrate. Families get together and eat turkey…”
“Turkey! I know about turkey! It’s in November.”
We looked at my calendar and counted the days. Then we read our story about the duck trying to give a bug a hug before he hid under the rug.
Mulling this over, I took Michael a Thanksgiving greeting card this week. The school hallways were decked with paper trees and students’ paper leaves of thanks. By now he was better versed on the holiday.
This incident really sharpened my awareness of how important our words are to young minds. We might inadvertently be teaching them that Thanksgiving Day is about beer and snacks and football, or turkey and sweet potatoes, or Pilgrims and Indians sharing corn for that matter. I’m glad Michael’s school is teaching them about gratitude but I realize their focus is on being grateful to parents and teachers. Not God.
As parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends and in-laws, that’s our responsibility to the little ones. We can help them understand that food comes from mom and dad’s hard work but that God’s grace is ultimately behind it. Freedom comes from the soldiers’ sacrifice but victory is given by a greater power than bravery and a big gun.
I’ve never met Michael’s family and I’m really guessing at his background. When I gave him his Thanksgiving card, he read the words he knew, sounded out what he could and I filled in the blanks. I was delighted that God was one of the words he already knew.