Friday, May 24, 2013

Remembering a Sunday School Teacher

When I was young, I had a very special Sunday School teacher (and the first one I am old enough to remember) named Rose Ward.  She loved me from the time I was in her pre-kindergarten class until she died earlier this week.  Her only child and daughter, Sharon, was a few years older than I, and she asked that I share some thoughts at her funeral (with a few minor changes).  This is what I shared during that time.

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I have many good memories of Rose.  My Mom and Rose were friends and as a young child I remember spending time at their house.  Rose was the first Sunday School teacher I remember – pre Kindergarten.  What I remember best was the many, many times she hugged me and asked, “How’s my boy?”  At that time, there was no doubt in my mind that I was special to her – and I have always felt that way.  Whether or not she said that to the other boys, I have no idea, but I do know that I always felt special.  I came from a loving home where were brought up to serve the Lord.  Yet, having a Sunday School teacher who loved me meant so much.  I could name all of my Sunday School teachers – and they all had an impact on my life – but Rose was special.  No one else referred to me as she did - “my boy”.  Never underestimate the power of loving – especially loving a child.
For children, those early years are so important, and Rose always loved me – both as my teacher and afterwards.  At that point, she had no idea what type of man I would turn out to be, but she loved me anyway.  For years, I was active in our local church as a layman and now I am a minister.   I believe that my Sunday School teachers, including Rose, had a part in my spiritual development from an early age.  I remember that we had moved into a new church building and our class ended up meeting in what basically was the furnace room.  Whether that was an issue for Rose or not, I never knew.  I just knew she was my teacher and she loved me.  Never underestimate the power of teaching – especially teaching a child.

We moved when I was in seventh grade, so I did not see Rose as much after that.  But I did see her several times when I was going to college – and she still loved me, was interested in me, and still treated me like I was “her boy”.  We reconnected on Facebook several years ago – and I was honored to be included as one of her “own” when she talked about her family.  It was a privilege to visit her in the hospital three years ago before we left for Ukraine so we could encourage her in a small way.  She seemed proud of the man I had become – and my only hope is that she knew how much she meant to me.  Her encouragement and love helped me want to follow Christ, just as she encouraged others to do.  Never underestimate the power of encouragement – especially encouraging a child.
We have learned to pass on what Rose started to demonstrate to me.  We love kids – whether our own, someone else’s or no one's.  In Ukraine, we loved going to the orphanage to spend time and just love on kids.  Thank you, Rose, for loving me.  We teach kids – mostly by example – as they watch our lives to see that what we are living is genuine.  Thank you, Rose, for teaching me.  We encourage kids by being their friend and being interested in what they do.  Thank you, Rose, for encouraging me.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said:
"To laugh often and much
To win the respect of intelligent people and affection of children
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends
To appreciate beauty; to find the best in others
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived
This is to have succeeded."
Rose was successful in being who God made her to be.  Today, if Rose were to ask me, “How’s my boy?”, I would answer – “Your boy is fine.  All is well with my soul.  I miss you.  I love you.  Thanks for loving, teaching, and encouraging me.  Save a place at the table for me.”

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What about you?  Did someone have a great impact on your life?  Have you shared that with them or their family?