Friends For Always

“Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place.”
Luke 4:24

A recent email exchange with a childhood friend turned my thoughts to the old neighborhood and someone I’ll never forget. I’ve told you about Glenda before, nonetheless, I can’t resist…

Glenda and I had been classmates from first through sixth grade. We played together whenever we could. During sixth grade, we endured some troubles. Glenda began to blossom into a young woman quite noticeably and I managed to annoy our teacher on a daily basis regardless of my genuine effort to do just the opposite.

One day, Sister announced that we must read the essays we’d just written to the entire class. Since Glenda and I were shy, we trembled in unison at the thought. When it was my turn, I managed not to fumble. When Sister called Glenda, I closed my eyes and prayed that she would do the same. A giggle from the back of the classroom interrupted my prayer. A second giggle prompted me to open my eyes. By the time I focused on Glenda, everyone in class was laughing, except for me. When I noticed that Glenda’s blouse had unbuttoned, I was mortified for her. Fortunately, Sister took control and sent Glenda and me into the hallway.

While I explained what had happened to Glenda, Sister mercilessly reprimanded the rest of the class. Poor Glenda sobbed until I convinced her that we were the lucky ones because the rest of the class was in trouble. In the end, our classmates ostracized us for a bit because we “got them into trouble”. Never mind their cruel laughter which caused Glenda’s tears. As for Glenda and me, our friendship grew stronger and Sister managed to muster a bit more patience when it came to judging my behavior.

Dear God, thank you for helping me to put my friendship with Glenda ahead of my standing among my classmates. Help me to put my friendship with you ahead of everything.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Love… Just Love!

The ordinances of the Lord are true, all of them just.
They are more precious than gold…

Psalm 19:10

As I walked the other day, I passed our local school at dismissal. Though I usually avoid this timing, I enjoyed the circus of it all just the same. The kids were well-behaved as they lined up for their buses and I fully appreciated the effort expended by them and their teachers to accomplish this. I wouldn’t trade my teaching career for anything. Still, there were days when I would’ve preferred to be any place other than in my classroom. This usually had little to do with the children. More often than not, it resulted from fatigue, frustration with “the powers that be” or the problems of people I care about. The good news is that my students managed to dispel my frustration in amazing ways.

When the children sensed an uncharacteristic edge in my voice, they were especially quiet and extremely helpful toward me and one another. In an effort not to darken my mood further, a few of them gave “the eye” to their less perceptive classmates who quickly responded. I always noted -and appreciated- this response to my crankiness and I answered it with a quick return to normalcy.

I worked very hard to make my classroom a productive and compassionate place. I realized that I succeeded at some level when the children managed my “off days” so mercifully. It seems to me that God has worked to make this world of ours a productive and compassionate place as well. The best way to let our Loving Creator know that we appreciate this effort is to respond in kind to one another.

Patient God, thank you for our capacity to love. Remind us often that your most pressing request is that we love each other.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Little Acts… Great Love…

Every day we are called to do small things with great love.
Mother Teresa

Sometimes, the smallest kindness changes the world.

It was the first day of school. Two eight-year-olds made their way to the start of the new year. The problem was that Conner, who was anxious to begin the new year just an hour earlier, had lost his nerve and he began to cry. Conner’s autism amplified his fear. Little Christian noticed his schoolmate’s misery. Without delay, he took Conner by the hand. Together, these two new friends made their way into what now would become an amazing first day of school for them both.

Christian’s mom had her phone along when she took her son to school that morning. She likely hoped to capture a photo of him on his first day of second grade. She never suspected that she’d also capture her son offering a measure of kindness powerful enough to change another child’s world. Christian’s small gesture changed my world as well!

Every day, we witness countless acts of love, tiny heroic moments which change lives. Every minute we’re given holds an opportunity to make or to break one another’s spirits and our own. Whenever we choose love over anger, love over impatience, love in spite of our weariness and love in the midst of heartbreak, we do our greatest work. Whenever we take advantage of the tiniest opportunity to do good, we change this world for the better.

Loving God, thank you for making use of everything we do, especially our small, seemingly unimportant efforts. Even these tiny acts make this world a better place.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Love Them All…

We are one body, individually members of one another.
Romans 12:5

As a child, I found the word “hate” to be terribly powerful. I refrained from using it for years. To “hate” anyone seemed to eliminate the possibility that I would ever learn to love him or her. In spite of the occasional teasing and physical trauma I suffered, I truly tried not to hate anyone.

My childhood resolve eventually faded and this became more difficult. Fortunately, college gave me more than the tools I needed to teach. It was there that my appreciation for children young and old grew exponentially. Later, when I had my own classroom, I couldn’t keep my students from occupying special places in my heart. It was more often a colleague or a student’s parent who tested my ability to love than it was any of the children in my classroom. I reminded myself often that these adults were also somebody’s children. I challenged myself to find reasons they these people might be loved by their parents and to focus on those attributes.

As I consider my frustration and sadness over so much of today’s news, I try to remember that those who turn our little worlds upside down and those who are playing havoc with the world at large are somebody’s children as well. We are all God’s children and it is up to us to find ways to get along. Though our efforts may seem small in the grand scheme of things, they will make a difference just the same.

Merciful God, help us to see one another with your eyes and to love one another with your heart. Help us to bring peace and justice back into this world, one encounter at a time.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Love Them All…

Blest are you who are weeping;
you shall laugh.

From Luke 4:21

A recent newscast referenced Polk Street, the West Side, Chicago. I grew up in a two-flat on Polk Street. When I closed my eyes to retrieve a mental picture of my childhood home, my friend Glenda came to mind. Though I’ve written about Glenda before, I can’t resist doing so once again…

Glenda and I lived on the same block and we were classmates from first through sixth grade. During sixth grade, Glenda blossomed into a young woman quite noticeably and I managed to annoy our teacher on a daily basis regardless of my genuine effort to do just the opposite.

On the day that comes to mind, Sister announced that we would read the essays we’d just written before the entire class. Shyness caused Glenda and me to tremble in unison. When I was called, I managed to read my work without a fumble. When Sister called Glenda, I closed my eyes and prayed that she would do the same. A giggle interrupted my prayer. A second giggle prompted me to open my eyes. By the time I realized what had happened, everyone was laughing except for me. Glenda’s blouse had unbuttoned and I was mortified for her. Fortunately, Sister quickly took control and sent Glenda and me into the hallway. While I explained what had happened to my friend, Sister mercilessly reprimanded the rest of the class. Poor Glenda sobbed until I convinced her that we were the lucky ones because the rest of the class was in serious trouble. Though our classmates ostracized us for a while because we “got them into trouble”, Glenda’s and my friendship was sealed forever.

Dear God, I could never have laughed at Glenda. I loved her too much! Help me to be as loving toward everyone I meet today.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Friendship That Lasts…

“Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place.”
Luke 4:24

A recent email exchange with a childhood friend turned my thoughts to the old neighborhood and someone I’ll never forget…

Glenda and I had been classmates from first through sixth grade and we played together whenever we could. During sixth grade, we endured some troubles. Glenda began to blossom into a young woman quite noticeably and I managed to annoy our teacher on a daily basis, regardless of my genuine effort to do just the opposite.

One day, Sister announced that we must read the essays we’d just written to the entire class. Since Glenda and I were shy, we trembled in unison at the thought. When it was my turn, I managed not to fumble. When Sister called Glenda, I closed my eyes and prayed that she would do the same. A giggle from the back of the classroom interrupted my prayer. A second giggle prompted me to open my eyes. By the time I focused on Glenda, everyone in class was laughing, except for me. When I noticed that Glenda’s blouse had unbuttoned, I was mortified for her. Fortunately, Sister took control and sent Glenda and me into the hallway.

While I explained what had happened to Glenda, Sister mercilessly reprimanded the rest of the class. Poor Glenda sobbed until I convinced her that we were the lucky ones because the rest of the class was in trouble. In the end, our classmates ostracized us for a bit because we “got them into trouble.” Never mind their merciless laughter which caused Glenda’s tears. As for Glenda and me, our friendship grew stronger and Sister managed to muster a bit more patience when it came to judging my behavior.

Dear God, thank you for helping me to put my friendship with Glenda ahead of my standing among my classmates. Help me to put my friendship with you ahead of everything.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved