How Amy Helped Me Discover My Gift
by John C. Westervelt
My granddaughter, Amy Westervelt, graduated from Texas A&M a year ago. She recently completed a college program with Kanakuk Institute and John Brown University that earned her a Master of Arts degree in Youth and Family Counseling. In late August, she will begin working as Minister to High School Girls at Park Cities Presbyterian Church in Dallas.
I am sure that Amy could give me good counsel today. However, it was twenty years ago as a three-year-old that she helped me discover my gift.
Let me take you back to 1988. I had been a widower for a year. Paul, Sandy, and six-year-old Brett were going to Stillwater for a 6:30 football game. Amy was going to spend the afternoon and night with me, and we were to meet her family at Asbury for Sunday school and church. Following are excerpts from my letter to my family written in early October 1988.
“After Amy’s nap, we headed for the zoo. We decided to ride the train to the south end and walk back visiting with the animals. Just beyond the train stop, were the seals. It was an instant friendship between Amy and the daddy, mommy, and two baby seals. The babies chased each other as do Amy and Brett. It was as if all four seals could hear Amy’s continual chatter as they performed to her requests.
“During all her waking moments at my house, Amy carried on a conversation with me. One of my favorite Christian authors, John Powell, states that Love is Communication. If true, then Amy may be one of the greatest living lovers. While I was driving and not looking her in the eye, she would tell me something and add parenthetically, ‘Right Grandpa John?’
“Bedtime was a repeat of nap time including the same two stories. At four o’clock in the morning, Amy called me wanting the teddy bear that had fallen out of bed. Her arms were cold so I covered her.
“At 7:30 a.m. there were two faces snuggled down in the pillow sleeping soundly. The furry one was the teddy bear. Rubbing the non-furry one and talking softly, I said, ‘Teddy bear, teddy bear, turn around, teddy bear, teddy bear touch the ground, teddy bear....’ As the non-furry one kept sinking her head deeper into the pillow, I thought, ‘Oh no, like her father she doesn’t like to get up.’ I discovered I was wrong when the head that turned was wearing a broad smile.
“Amy’s good humor continued as she ate little white donuts with my scrambled eggs. After breakfast, I put Amy’s dress on her and helped her with her shoes and socks. At Asbury, I left Amy with Susie Wood in the three-year-old classroom, and I went to my class.
“Susie told Sandy when she picked up Amy, ‘In case Amy says something about it, I took her into the bathroom, took off her dress, and turned it around.’” (Susie and Cary Wood have taught three-year-old Sunday school at Asbury for twenty-four years.)
Jean Hackler-Atchison had been a volunteer leader in the children’s division for as long as I could remember. Late one spring, she told me that she was desperate for teachers for the children during the summer months. I thought, “I can take care of Amy at my house. Why not try teaching her three-year-old class?”
So I did and continued helping in the children’s area for the next seven summers. One summer I taught with Xerlan Swaffer in the second grade class. Struggling with her first name, the children called her Granny X. I was in my sixties. Granny X was older than I in years but younger in spirit.
At age 67 I retired from BP Amoco Research Laboratories and worked on contract half days on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. On the second Tuesday that I was home alone, I called my friend Helen Frymire, a twenty-five year veteran of Asbury weekday preschool, and asked if I could be a volunteer helper in her three-year-old class on Tuesday and Thursday. She gave me a try, and it worked.
Five years later BP Amoco moved the laboratories to Houston, and I fully retired. Now acquainted with all the preschool teachers, I found volunteer work on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday with four-year-olds. For fourteen years the children have given me a reason to get up each morning.
If Amy had not been so loving as a three-year-old and if Jean Atchison had not been so persistent in recruiting me to teach the children, I might never have discovered my gift, and that would have been a shame.
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