August 15, 2010

The Good Samaritan was a 6th grader - the story.

A week ago I spent my week with about eighty 6th graders* in Vacation Bible School. That's a lot of 6th graders. Our structure for the 3 hour morning is that after a very fun and loud gathering (of what turned out to be 440 kiddos), they head out, by grade level and group. Three groups going to three activities and switching during the morning so they get to do all three.

I love teaching, talking, sharing, all of it, so for about 9 years, I've jumped at the chance to be a story teller. This year, we walked through the significance of the Jesus' Parables. I love the parables. I love these stories that require thinking and learning to open them up, to understand them, to grasp the clues about who God is and how He operates.

So the 3rd day, we focused on The Good Samaritan.

I struggled with how this story could go beyond just a good guy - how to make it meaningful. These beautiful kids range widely in their backgrounds and home situations - from white/suburban/churchy to hispanic/gang territory/unchurchy. How do you help them see a division of unspoken law in a way that touches their hearts and minds but doesn't really divide them as a group? So we talked about the division between homeless people and the rest of us.

I asked them about what I should do about the homeless lady I ran into that morning. They all replayed what they had been taught - you shouldn't give them money.
Why?
Because: they might not be really homeless, they might use the money for drugs, they might use the money to buy alcohol, they might just keep coming back to you instead of getting a job. (The list went on.)
But how do you feel when you see a homeless person?
Icky. Bad. Really bad. Sometimes they have homeless kids. And I think sometimes they get really, really hungry and really, really cold. I want my mom and dad to pull over so I can give them the rest of my dinner from the restaurant we ate at. My mom says we can give them a bottle of water - that's all.
What do you wish you could do?
I wish I could help. I wish I could give them something.
How can we help?
We can make sandwiches. (Light bulb!)

We continued, talking about how we can share what we have, even if what we have is very little or all we have is a kind smile or a prayer. None of us really wanted to just walk past the homeless person as if they weren't there.

So the next day, my friend Robin and I abandoned plans for a game or another way to set the scene for the next parable. Instead we set up two tables covered with butcher paper, food prep gloves, bread and knives - one table with turkey, ham, mayo and mustard and the other with peanut butter and jelly.

As each group came in they found a place at the table and made a sandwich - the best sandwich, or their favorite or one that anybody would love. David tried to make a triple decker with peanut butter, turkey and ham, but it just wouldn't fit in the sandwich bag. They wrote messages, drew smiley faces, and even prayed over the gifts in ziplock bags.

Then they sat down to hear the story about the friend at midnight

When we finished and they went on to recreation or games, Robin and I got to remind them that "tonight, someone is going to eat, because of you." They beamed on their way out. A couple of kiddos said they were going to share sandwiches with a kid at school who doesn't bring lunch. And several said thanks for letting them do that.

I'd asked our Pastor Larry for a place to take these sandwiches and he responded later with a note - they were to be delivered to the Long Beach Rescue Mission. To the division called Samaritan House. (I think of that as a wink from God.)

So, while I was moved to tears over the miracle of the 6th graders' hearts and hands, my husband took 102 sandwiches, some apples and tangerines to the people we all to often don't really see.

My own daughter was one of the sandwich makers. She's taken the lead on making sandwiches on Sunday mornings to have with us on the way to church, just in case.

So maybe the word, "homeless" popped into my mind by coincidence. And maybe the kid said, "We can make sandwiches" by chance. Maybe even, the place was called Samaritan House out of serendipity. But I think, by definition, the remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection was totally orchestrated by the One who wants me to understand His heart and His love for all His creation.

In the parable of the sandwich makers.

* And an amazing 5th grade teacher whom I'll share about in a later post.

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