Smile!

Love kindness and walk humbly with God.
From Micah 6:8

I smile. When I pass anyone anywhere, I smile. I smile even when I’m outdoors walking. Neither drizzle nor cloudy skies dampen my fascination with the beauty around me. These days, I smile throughout our daily walks. After all, they offer a precious opportunity not to stay-in-place for an hour.

My husband and I begin our walks with a discussion regarding the day’s route. Afterward, we go on to more interesting topics such as our children and grandchildren. We plan the rest of our meals for the day and discuss the possibility of tackling a project in the house or the yard when we return home. I usually end the conversation by moaning about my lack of progress on my book and the posts I need to complete for the coming week.

Throughout this conversation, Mike and I often pass two or three people along the way. As soon as we spot each other, we begin planning our social distancing strategy. If the person approaching doesn’t move, we reroute enough to leave at least twelve feet between us. Far apart as we are, Mike says “Hello” and I smile and add, “Stay safe!” When we began these walks several weeks ago, those we passed rarely responded. In time, however, these fellow walkers began to respond in kind.

You know, all of our lives have been rerouted by the COVID-19 pandemic. So it seems the perfect time to smile at every opportunity. If our efforts catch on, we might find ourselves in a far better place sooner ever!

Loving God, smile on us and be with us as we do the same for one another.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Precious Kids

The child grew and became strong in spirit…
Luke 1:80

My husband recently shared a Facebook posting he received from a former student of ours. Mike was Charlie’s middle school principal. As an elementary school remedial reading teacher, I never taught Charlie because he is extremely bright. Still, he and I interacted frequently due to our involvement in special school projects and the close proximity of our classrooms. We talked almost every day.

The truth is that I intentionally gave Charlie a good deal of attention. His amazing academic ability sometimes put him at odds with his classmates. I hoped to encourage Charlie to be himself and to do his best in spite of the teasing and worse which his peers mercilessly doled out. In the end, Charlie persisted. This brave young man is now a happy and productive adult.

Early into my teaching career, I was fascinated by a book concerning the most important things we learn in school. The author was convinced that he’d learned everything he needed to know for the rest of his life during kindergarten. Today, more than ever, I think we all need to be mindful of those early lessons in getting along and caring for each another. How I wish I could assign some of those currently in office and a few of my fellow citizens to repeat those lessons! The truth is that I sometimes need a similar refresher as well.

So it is that I’m going to take another peek at Charlie’s Facebook post. I’m certain that the image of his smile will reignite my faith in my fellow humans and in myself as we love one another through our battle with COVID-19.

Loving God, help us to be the children you created us to be.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Seedlings of Peace

Act justly, love kindness, walk humbly with God.
From Micah 6:6-8

Smiling comes naturally to me. This means that whenever I meet people, I add a smile to the encounter. The truth is that I smile at most of creation when I have the opportunity to enjoy it. I smile even when I’m outdoors walking alone. Neither drizzle nor a cloudy sky dampens my fascination with the beauty around me.

This is the reason I was taken aback by the students in the school to which I was assigned some years ago. My office was located at one end of the building. The school office and the children I worked with were located at the other end. As a result, I walked the halls numerous times per day. Every time, I passed students. A few days into this assignment, I noticed the lack of smiles, or any acknowledgement for that matter, along the way. When I offered a “good morning” as I passed, students registered genuine surprise. It took many of them a week or two before they began to respond in kind. A few months into the school year, a colleague asked me why the students I met always greeted me. I told her that they were simply returning the favor.

It seems to me that if we desire peace and justice in this world, we need to plant seeds of that peace and justice wherever we find ourselves. A few seedlings scattered here and there will grow into a flowerbed and then a garden one day. To get there, though, we must first plant the seeds.

Loving God, inspire us to imitate your creative ways in our efforts to plant peace and justice in our world.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Always Teaching…

The child grew and became strong in spirit…
Luke 1:80

As soon as I saw his face, I knew the young man before me and I had walked the same hallways decades earlier. Though I was never his teacher, this bright and talented student and I interacted frequently due to our involvement in special projects and the close proximity of our classrooms. We talked almost every day.

Though Charles was far too bright to require the academic support I offered, I gave this young man as much attention as possible. His amazing abilities sometimes put him at odds with his classmates. I hoped to encourage him to be himself and to do his best in spite of the teasing and worse which his peers doled out. In the end, he persisted. This brave young man is now a happy, well-adjusted and productive adult.

Many years ago, I was fascinated by the title of a book regarding all of the things the author had learned in kindergarten. This writer was convinced that he’d acquired life’s most important skills during that single year. While I agree with him regarding those all-important life-skills, I’d like to think that we have the potential to learn something new every day. I also think we have the potential to teach something new every day. This is the reason that we need to be ever-mindful of the gift of the children among us. The things they learn at home, at school and in the neighborhood remain with them for the rest of their lives. Hopefully, our instructive example contributes to their development, their productivity and their ability to nurture and to teach others even better than we have.

Loving God, help us to bring a bit of your wonder and your love to the little children and to the grown children nearby.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Teach God’s Little Ones Well…

The child grew and became strong in spirit…
Luke 1:80

My husband enjoys numerous friends on Facebook many of whom are former students of ours. He was a school principal in the school district where I taught. As a result, we often interacted with the same students in spite of our assignments in different buildings. Occasionally, one of these kids dared to ask me about the difference in Mike’s and my demeanor. They noted that I seemed far more cheerful than he most of the time. I always laughed while explaining that my role as a reading teacher was far less taxing than my husband’s role as principal of 500 or more students. Though the kids never quite understood at the time, their Facebook interactions with their former principal indicate that, now that they are parents, they understand completely.

Several years ago, I was fascinated by the title of a book written about all of the things we learn in kindergarten. The author asserted that he’d learned everything he needed to know for the rest of his life during that first year of his education. Though I’d like to think that my husband and I added to our students’ wisdom long after kindergarten, I do understand what this author was getting at. It seems to me that we need to be ever-mindful of the lessons we offer the children in our midst. The things learned at home, at school and everywhere else when we’re young have lifelong ramifications. As adults, it’s up to us to ensure that our example offers our best to all of the children who grace our lives.

Loving God, help us to teach the children among us as you would.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Plant Those Seeds

Love kindness and walk humbly with God.
From Micah 6:8

I smile. When I pass anyone anywhere, I smile. The truth is that I smile at most of creation when I take the opportunity to enjoy it. So it is that I smile even when I’m outdoors walking alone. Neither drizzle nor cloudy skies dampen my fascination with the beauty around me.

This is the reason I was taken aback by the students in the school to which I was assigned some years ago. My office was located at one end of the building while the school office and the children I worked with were located at the other. As a result, I walked the length of the building several times every day. In the process, I passed numerous students. What concerned me was the lack of smiles, or any acknowledgement for that matter, along the way. When I offered a “good morning” as I passed them, students registered genuine surprise. It took many of them days or weeks to respond in kind. Several weeks into that school year, a colleague asked me why the students I passed in the hallway always greeted me. I told her that they were simply returning the favor.

You know, if we truly desire peace in this world of ours, we need to plant the seeds of that peace wherever we find ourselves. A few small seedlings will grow into a flowerbed and then a garden one day. To get there, though, we must first plant the seeds.

Loving God, inspire us to imitate your creative ways in our efforts to bring peace to others. Though we are small in the grand scheme of things, we really can plant seeds of greatness.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved