Listening to the Children
by John C Westervelt
A recent Tidings article told the story of three-year-olds Piper and Riley, twin sisters, selecting a twelve-inch tree as a Christmas gift for my new apartment at Crestwood at Oklahoma Methodist Manor. These girls are in my preschool class on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Asbury. Below are recorded thoughts from my archives about children from an earlier day.
Thursday October 12, 1995
Helen Frymire meets the three-year-olds at their car in the circle drive. The children gather in the outer foyer until all fifteen have arrived. As Jane Berry held the door, one little girl burst inside to say, “Me and my daddy are going on a date!” I thought, “What a wise father.”
Thursday November 9, 1995
You’ll remember that several weeks ago a three-year-old girl said, “Me and my Daddy are going on a date.” Today this same little girl was wearing a t-shirt with the message, “My Daddy is a Promise Keeper.”
Tuesday November 28, 1995
Today’s theme for the three-year-olds was “My Church.” At eleven o’clock Miss Helen explained that we would line up and walk through the church before going to the gym for playtime. (It was too cold to go outside.) After touring the sanctuary, we stopped beside the office of Senior Pastor Tom Harrison. He invited the children into his office. It is not as if I should take off my shoes, still there is a certain aura about entering Tom’s office. The children’s attentiveness showed they had captured the mood.
Tom explained, “Jesus is serious in this wood carving. In this painting, He is laughing, and I think Jesus laughed a lot.”
Selecting pictures from the long bookshelves, Tom said, “This is a picture of my family. I have three children. In this picture I am baptizing a baby.”
Holding up a picture of a wedding with a bride in a long white dress, Tom asked, “Do any of you know what this picture is about?”
A three-year-old answered, “Married.”
Our smiling, gracious pastor then asked, “Does anyone have a question?”
A little boy spoke right up, “Can we go to the gym now?”
Tuesday April 1, 1997
When the three-year-olds began preschool in the fall, Megan would sometimes cry for her mother. Today this self-assured child arrives at school with a bounce in her step and a talking smile on her face.
While helping at the play dough table today, I could see that Megan had the heart shaped cutter upside down. She was trying to cut with the blunt side rather than the sharp edge of the plastic pattern.
I turned the cutter over and pressed it into the play dough for her. Unknown to me, Megan’s tiny finger was under the play dough below the cutter. By now so very mature, she didn’t cry, but I could see her looking up at me with a grimacing expression. I felt so terrible that she could see pain in my eyes. With eyes on eyes, she said, “That’s okay, Grandpa John.” A deep love for this child grew deeper.
Thursday January 22, 1998
Emily is the youngest and tiniest of the three-year-olds. Today for the first time, she wouldn’t let Miss Helen help her out of the car. Finally, her mother parked and carried her into our waiting area. Miss Jane asked about the problem. Her mom pointed to Emily’s hair and said, “She is having a bad hair day.” Her hair was mussed with a small ponytail on one side. I thought, “This seems like an early start on what can be a serious problem for girls.”
Thursday February 19, 1998
Miss Jane and Miss Helen recognize the vehicles that drop off and pick up each three-year-old. On Tuesday, Will came in a car instead of the family van. He said, “My mother has a new car (probably rental) because her van was in a wreck, but not squished.” I asked if his mother was hurt. Will responded, “She wasn’t hurt, but she cried anyway.”
Thursday March 19, 1998
Stefanie, a three-year-old, handed me a black dress from the basket in the play area. Then holding her arms over her head she asked me to help her put it on. Her eyes were serious as she said, “Don’t mess up my makeup; don’t get my lipstick on the dress.” The only colors on her face were put there by God, so I assume she has been listening to someone at home.
A year ago, I moved to Crestwood at Oklahoma Methodist Manor. Now in my middle eighties, I have begun the final leg of life’s journey. Can heaven be far ahead? When I get to heaven, I’ll ask God if He has a preschool. Those parents that have lost a young child believe He does. Right away, I’ll apply for a job as a helper in God’s preschool.
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