Back to 1st Grade

February 27, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

I went back to 1st grade today… and, boy was it fun! I found myself wondering what happened to me along the way to change me from a 1st grader to whatever it is that I am today.

The reason I went back to 1st grade was to read to my son Hayden’s class. So, we picked out two books (The Poky Little Puppy and Up Goes Mr. Downs), my wife explained the security procedures necessary for entering an elementary school, and off I went.

After I got there and signed in (and showed a picture ID and emptied my pockets and promised that no one had touched my books except me), I sat on the bench by the cafeteria. See, part of the deal of reading to Hayden’s class is sitting at lunch with him…It was 10:37 am (what kind of schedule is that?! 10:37 is lunch?!? By that schedule my son should hit the rack about 5:53pm… He does not do this).

While on the bench I met Quenton. Quenton was a chatty little guy in another 1st grade class. He was wandering the halls spinning and waving his arms. When questioned by the check-in commandant (a lovely volunteer mom who said “slow down” a lot), Quenton said that his teacher sent him down early. Apparently this is not uncommon for Quenton because the commandant commented under her breath, “She probably just wants you out of class.”

I talked to Quenton and he was delightful (mainly because I knew I would be leaving Quenton behind in a couple of minutes). When another parent came in Q (that’s what I think I’ll call Quenton) exclaimed “I know YOU! You’re Shawn’s mom!” He was very excited about this connection. Then he said boldly, “Can I come over to your house today?” This took Shawn’s mom a little by surprise. She stammered and thought; thought and stammered. The commandant jumped in to the rescue and said that this was probably not a good day for Q to visit Shawn (the commandant is apparently adept at this kind of social faux pas).

But I thought about Q and his unabashed desire for entertainment and fun. How come we adults don’t spin around and wave our arms when we walk anymore? Is it the pain in our hip? Is it the social stigma? And why don’t we invite ourselves over to our friends house more? If you have fun with Shawn, doggoneit, ask his mom if you can come over. When did that kind of world view disappear (middle school)?

So many questions… But so little time– because my son’s class was approaching and we headed to lunch.

Now I don’t know the last time you dined with a class of 1st graders, but it’s been a while for me. At first, they all kind of looked at me. I could see the wheels in their heads spinning. He’s not in my class… And he’s pretty big… Is that his real nose… Who are you?

And then it came: the interrogation. The questions came quickly… Are you Hayden’s dad? Why are you here? Will you give me money? (they didn’t say that last one– but I know a couple of them were thinking it). I filled them in and told them I was there to read after lunch. Hayden announced (quite boldly, I might add), “My dad does different voices.” Well, this generated some excitement and I was pressed to perform (obviously, those of you who know me realize that this was actually a “good” thing because I love an audience– any size any age). So, I did a few voices. I killed (show biz term for “My act was very well received and appreciated”). Then I took requests… “Do a pirate”… “Do a ghost”… “Do a monster”… I did and was really on fire. Then Joey stopped me in my tracks: “Do ham.” I wasn’t sure how to “do ham”. Well, this changed the tone of the meal. When those little darlings saw that I was stumped, it was like chum in the water and the sharks were frenzied: “Do jello”… “Do pizza”… “Do door”… “Do doo doo” (needless to say, “doo doo” brought the table to an uproar).

I realized that things were getting a little out of control– and I was the one causing it (actually, to be honest, I didn’t realize we were out of control until another volunteer cafeteria commandant threatened to move our table’s cone to yellow. I don’t know what that means, but I do know that it’s not good).

We calmed down. And then the kids began to perform for me. The big joke was this:

KID: (shouting to get my attention) Mr. Haupt! (when I finally look at them) What’s your name?

ME: Mr. Haupt. (I didn’t point out that the question was silly since they called me by my name… I can work with the little people)

KID: (holding their hand out palm up) What’s this?

ME: A hand…

KID: No!

ME: A palm?

KID: No! What’s in my hand?

ME: I don’t know…

KID: “Nothing”!

ME: Okay…

KID: Say “Nothing”.

ME: (desperately wishing that another parent would enter the fray) Okay… Nothing.

KID: (beginning to giggle; pointing to their nose) What’s this?

ME: A finger.

KID: NO! This (pointing to their nose more forcefully)!

ME: Your face?

KID: NO!!! THIS!! (now pointing and grabbing their nose)

ME: Your nose. (I was beginning to get the hang of it)

KID: Yeah! (laughter) Mr Haupt… Nose… Nothing!

ALL KIDS: Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha…

Now, you may wonder why I subjected you to that corny, silly, juvenile gag. I did it because I was subjected to it. But understand. You read it once. To get the full feel of my experience reread the entire dramatic exchange above 8,724 times. Seriously. Every child went through it with me several times. The incredible thing was that they laughed at the punch line with the same zeal and vigor every single time.

And here’s what I discovered back in first grade: kids love, want, need, desire attention. And they really love, want, need, desire attention from adults.

It wasn’t the joke that was so fun. It was the person they were sharing the joke with. It wasn’t because it was me (Doug), it was because I was Hayden’s dad. It was because I chose to be there with them… I wanted to share a meal and read a story. I wasn’t a teacher, or a hall/cafeteria commandant– I was just a guy who was there with them. And we had fun and laughed and enjoyed our time.

Where did that go? It seems that– as an adult– every moment of every day is purposely scheduled for a specific, desired result. Much of my life is planned and calculated for effect and efficiency. Deviation from that plan/strategy is a negative. Silly 1st grade gags are not productive and, therefore not tolerated

We long for deep relationships with others, but we don’t take the time to eat our peanut butter and jelly/honey/fluffernutter sandwiches together while repeating the same joke over and over until tears fill our eyes and we cough up a piece of bread.

And here’s the kicker. This has an impact on the way we view and approach God (you were wondering if this has a point, weren’t you… well, maybe it does– maybe it doesn’t). I think we all desperately love, want, need, desire attention from our heavenly Father. I believe that is hard-wired deep within our soul. We often miss this because we’re on our own path– making our own way. We don’t see God because we only see ourselves.

Then God opens our eyes to his presence and grace. We experience acceptance and forgiveness and love that we’ve never imagined. But instead of just sitting at the table and drinking our chocolate milk with our Creator, we set out to perform for him– to gain his attention. To earn his favor. To prove our worth. Our life is just as hectic and busy as before, but it looks different to us– it looks better because it is filled with religiosity (going to church, evangelizing, serving, reading your Bible, singing in the choir, joining a small group, Sunday school, etc.). Good things to be sure– but they can actually keep us from our Father.

It’s kinda like we believe that God has to love us because he’s God and everything–the Bible says “God is love” (1 John 4)– but he doesn’t really like us. You ever feel that way?

If so, come to the cafeteria. Your friend is waiting for you. He doesn’t just love you– he likes you too! And he wants to be with you more than you want to be with him.

God smiles and laughs… he delights in you.

In fact, he may have created the nose just so my new friends and I could laugh together today…

I think I’ll try to stay in 1st grade a while… I think I’ll go skip somewhere.(That’s about as funny as a submarine with screen doors!)

Grace and peace,

Doug

A Stretchy Pants Super Bowl

February 9, 2007 by · 2 Comments 

Well, another Super Bowl has come and gone. A new world champion (if you consider the “world” the United Staes).

That means another Super Bowl Sunday has come and gone. With this in mind, I thought I’d give you some of my reflections about last Sunday (I know that you have been waiting anxiously for my reflections)…

1) I am happy for Peyton Manning. What’s not to like. All the women I was watching with used words like “cute, adorable, and nice” to describe him… And they’re right, he is. He is also extremely gifted at what he does and, unfortunately, his career would always be questioned with out winning the “big one” (see: Dan Marino).

2) Sunday was also a “time warp” day… That was Billy Joel singing the national anthem (it was, wasn’t it?) and Prince or whatever symbol he used to go by at halftime. It felt like I was in college again.

3) It also felt like I was in college because I wore stretchy pants to my first Super Bowl in years. What are stretchy pants, you ask? Basically warm-ups. My daughters were horrified when I came downstair to head to our Super Bowl party wering warm-ups and a sweatshirt. They wanted the normal fashion conscious dad they’ve come to know and love.

But I had different ideas. See, I was going to a party of really good friends. It was a church Super Bowl party. I know everyone. they know me. I could wear stretchy pants and it was OKAY. I wanted to play, I wanted to eat, and I wanted to lounge. Stetchy pants fit the bill on all three counts.

4) I am getting old. I actually remember watching some of Super Bowl VII. We’re now up to XXXXI or something like that. I am approaching the outer limits of my knowledge of Roman Numerals.

5) I love buffets. It’s awesome when there’s a bunch of food placed at strategic positions around a house (see; stretchy pants).

6) Top commercial: Conectile Dysfunction.

7) Fun party… This goes back to stretchy pants. It’s really cool when you are so comfortable with a group of people that you can just relax, isn’t it? Maybe you don’t really even know what I mean. When you can waer what you’d wear at home to a gathering, that’s kinda nice. I was fortunate enough to attend a gathering with folks that I can be… well… I can be me. It’s not always pretty (see: buffet; stretchy pants), but it’s real.

How often can you totally relax with people other than your own family? For me, if I’m honest, it’s been a while. I gotta be on my game, gotta look right, gotta be on top of it, together, and polished. Gotta make a good first impression, never let them see you sweat, and always be in control. The problem is, I rarely feel that way in my everyday life. So alot of the time it seems like my lotto is “the show must go on”. And it does. But it can be pretty tiring to be “on” all the time, can’t it?

As I was sitting/lying on a couch Sunday, looking at the buzz of activity around me, stretching my stretchy pants, I was reminded about how God calls us to live in community with one another. Sure, we were worshiping together on Sunday morning… but we were also worshipping together on Sunday night. We were sharing a meal (or in my case, several meals), we were talking, we were playing, we were laughing, we were answwering trivia questions (actually, I was the only one actually answering the question– which was “What Super Bowl did Timmy Smith set the Super Bowl rushing record in?”– turns out I was right and everyone else was wrong… but really, it’s not a big deal). The point is, we were having a lot of fun.

I think God likes that. And I know he was there. And I bet he even liked my stretchy pants.