One of my first graders has been quite the challenge since I started at Heritage. His name is Jonah. Jonah struck me at first as the typical tough guy (at least as tough as you can be at age 6). He is the one who is always pushing on the playground or cutting in line. I noticed him right away because he was the only one who would not listen to instructions. I would tell him to get in line or clear his desk and he would just laugh and continue doing whatever he wanted. It wasn’t just me. Jonah did not really listen to any of the teachers.
After reading “Blue Like Jazz” while I was on safari, I was determined to try to change Jonah’s attitude by just loving him. Each day, I made it a point to ask him how he day was and give him a knuckle pound (what all the cool kids do). The first few days it was just plain awkward. I could tell he didn’t understand why I was just chatting when I’m normally the one enforcing the rules. Last Thursday, I saw a change. I was saying goodbye to the class because I would be missing class on Friday. As I was walking out of the class, Jonah ran and gave me a hug. Talking about being shocked!
Earlier this week, Jonah was in trouble for pushing one of the other boys at recess. When I asked him what happened, he sincerely apologized to the other boy. He told me that he really wants to follow the rules but sometimes he messes up. Then, there was a moment that just touched my heart. He asked me if I can forgive him for breaking the rules. This is the kid who a few weeks ago we had to drag into the class to get him to mumble an apology to someone. He was kept from recess almost three days a week for violence. But this was a new Jonah.
Yesterday at chapel, Jonah decided to sit next to me. During the upbeat songs, Jonah played the cool kid card. He was just too cool to do the moves to “Days of Elijah” or to shout during “Mabo Sawa Sawa.” I, being the early childhood major, was dancing as obnoxiously as ever. I tried to encourage Jonah to dance along. When he asked why, I told him that our silly dances are pleasing to God. It was then that God decided to speak straight to my heart. When volunteers for the next song were called, Jonah shot his hand up. He got up in front of first through sixth grade and did the motions with such passion and enthusiasm that it took everything in me to stop myself from crying. I always find the praises of youth to be beautiful, but this was different. Even writing about it now, I am awestruck. The next time you feel your faith is lacking, go watch some first graders praising our God. I can’t stop thanking God for the amazing things He is whispering to me while I’ m in Uganda.
“Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”