My mom has a story she likes to tell about me, my brother, and my sister, Meaghan, when we were just little kids. I, the oldest of four children, was maybe 4 or 5 years old, and my dad, a pilot, had been assigned the responsibility of flying Santa Claus onto the military base where we lived. Santa was coming to take photos with the children and listen to their wish lists and pass out candy canes to the posse of petite people waiting to meet him.
On the day of Santa's fly by, all the children and the parents huddled outside the hanger where the plane would land. When the children heard the sounds of the jet engines soring through the air, they all clapped and cheered and yelled Santa's name and searched the skies for signs of Ole St. Nick. The plane dramatically circled the hanger a few times and then landed. As soon as the aircraft rolled to a stop, my mom says you could see a swarm of children dart towards the plane door where Santa was standing and waving and shouting jolly "ho-ho-hos".
Except for the three Murphy kids.
Instead of running to Santa, we ran to the other side of the plane. For us, the man of the hour was not Santa, but the man who escorted him--our Dad and the pilot of the ship.
I thought of that story this afternoon after we had completed our first day of our parish's Vacation Bible School. I got ropped into helping...volunteered again this year--in a major way--and though my mouth said "yes" when the Director asked me to help, my heart said (and is still saying) "No, I don't want to do this."
"I wish I could be one of those moms who just drops her kids off at the activity and goes out for coffee," I confessed to a mom-friend this morning as we waited for the events to begin.
"No, you don't," she answered. "That's not who you are and that wouldn't make you happy."
I threw my head back, laughed and retorted, "It'd make me happy today and so would a Dunkin Donuts Iced Coffee." She grinned.
But then I went to class to teach the 200 kids who sat in front of me in groups of 20 for 20 minutes each and a funny thing happened. For starters, this little boy, Ben, approached me to ask for some help with his science experiment. When I agreed, he threw his arms around my waist in a hug and said, "You are such a nice teacher." I hugged him right back and was touched by the unexpected gesture and the pure manner in which he offered it.
And then this: another little girl came up to me and said, "Ohhhhh, I remember you from last year. I love you and I'm so glad you're my teacher." She too threw her arms around me and my stony heart melted, even if just a little.
Maybe there is a reason I'm here, I started to wonder...
I'm a words of affirmation type of girl, but these two incidents--though very small--helped convince me I was on the right track, even if I felt like I wanted to jump off it and go take a nap under a shaded tree.
But the piece de resistance was this: all three of my older children (on separate occasions) told me my class was their favorite.
I don't want you to get the impression it was because we were mixing potions to erupt volcanoes in my VBS science lab. Because we weren't. I know my kids didn't say this because I wowed them with awesome science experiments (though the activity was kinda fun).
I think they said it for the same reason we Murphy Kids ran to greet my pilot father so long ago: because I'm their parent and at their age, kids think their parents are the coolest people in the world.
They like seeing me. They like knowing I'm there and they like knowing I'm involved.
And that encourages this reticent parent who often feels like she just wants to sit this one out.