If You're Happy and You Know It (Wisdom from the Ages, part 1)
There I sat in the too tiny chair at the low table, feeling like Alice in Wonderland when she ate the cake and grew too large for her surroundings. To my right was a little boy, awaiting my help to write his name at the top of his coloring page. To my left was a little girl, sniffing and wiping away tears with the back of her hand. Surrounding us was the clatter and chatter of a dozen other Pre-K children, playing with toys around the room while the two official leaders of this clan sat among them, playing, encouraging, and talking.
I was there for work purposes. One of my new gigs as a freelancer involved a church who wanted me to observe these kiddos in order to write something for their ministry. There are two things you need to know about me:
1. My three sisters-in-law on the Carr side of the family all work in the preschool realm. My mother-in-law is a retired kindergarten teacher. One of these ladies is doing her own thing and doesn't fit with the rest of the family—that's me! Yet they love me anyway. And I am amazed by their care and skill and desire to shape young hearts. Tonight's time in the Pre-K room only solidified this great respect I have for them all.
2. I was hesitant when my own child was this age. I sought out the aforementioned amazing women in my family when I had a preschooler in the house. It was all new territory, and I needed help navigating the landscape. But I surprisingly enjoyed that age of exploration and wonder more than I would have imagined. My daughter is now 11, so it's been a while since I've hung out with the preschool crowd.
So I looked around, wondering if anyone else noticed my slight awkwardness in this setting.
No one seemed to mind. The kids welcomed me right in. The little boy with the coloring page—he was more than happy to share a marker and allow my big-person handwriting to grace the top of his page. The sniffing girl? She was sad because it was her first time at this church, and she was scared. I told her it was my first time too. That didn't exactly break the ice, but she warmed to me later. And when three more kids came in as service was beginning to start, they didn't know I didn't truly belong here. They just assumed I was part of the regular crew. They started telling me about how they were cousins and they were having a slumber party that night, and we became fast friends.
I had a blast with that preschool worship service. We sang. We danced. Cartoon critters on the screen shared some thoughts with us. Then we heard a part of God's story. It was one of my favorite services I've been to this summer.
I went to observe, but I gained much more than research for a writing project. I was reminded of some important wisdom:
• It's OK to be silly and act crazy sometimes. It feels good. Don't worry about what other people think about you.
• Cartoon animals talking to you are pretty cool.
• Sharing is hard, but it's not the end of the world.
• Worshipping God is best when songs have motions you can do with your whole body.
• Everyone is welcome around the coloring table—no matter what you look like and even if you're a grownup that's too big for the chair. And if you ask the right questions, everybody at that table has a story, and they might just tell it to you.