ONE SHEEP MATTERED
Mrs. G. has become one of my favorite teachers, in memory. I was seven or eight-years-old when I stepped into her class, at Jason Lee Elementary, she stole my “creative” heart. Everything we did that year woke my inner artist with the methods she used to teach. We wrote and bound books (I have two of them) to read to the First Graders, helping them to read. We made pottery, made butter, made bread, made bricks, learned how to weave, all this to while learning the early history of the Americas, and we wrote, produced, and performed plays that illustrated everything from math, to spelling, to English.
She was, and that class was, very formative for me…obviously building and discovering what are now so many parts of my life.
One day we took a “field trip”, one of my first. We traveled as a class to the “big kids school” (the Junior High School) to see a play. This was one of my first, up close. It was probably only as good as it could be; costumes and set were probably rudimentary…but for me, at that moment in time, it was an incredible and magic moment. After the show I went backstage and stood craning my neck to see all the backstage magic: sets, lights, props. One of the actors came up to me, a girl who played a princess (as I recall), and I asked her a million questions about the stage-craft…really more interested in the everything BEFORE the acting, at that point. Somewhere during the conversation she asked if I had come with a class of other kids. It was only then that I realized I had wandered off by myself backstage. I immediately panicked, knowing they would leave without me; the long walk back to school, the scolding from Mrs. G and worse, from my parents…or the ultimate…I’d be sent to the Principal!
I turned to quickly escape and there was Mrs G. She looked upset, but bent down and gave me a hug. She said she was worried and left the other kids on the bus to go ahead as she searched for me through the school, she took me back to the school in her car.
We spoke of it again, many, many years later when she and her husband ended up attending the church my parents attended. I was an adult, working as an actor, songwriter, church musician…pretty much all skills that were based in what I learned in her class, when I visited my folks and their congregation. I was grown, married, with kids by this point. It was a very happy reunion; she hadn’t changed a bit in my eyes. She had saved a couple of my books and gave them to me, and I asked her if she remembered that day at the Junior High Play. She said she did, that I was her “little lost sheep”. I then begged her to admit that I was her favorite pupil in all these years.
She said, “You are ALL my favorites…but at that time, YOU were the one in trouble, so I focused on you.”
“What man among you, who has 100 sheep and loses one of them, does not leave the 99 in the open field and go after the lost one until he finds it? When he has found it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders, and coming home, he calls his friends and neighbors together, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found my lost sheep!’ I tell you, in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who don’t need repentance.”
Jesus’ shepherd loved ALL the sheep, but at that place and time there was ONE who needed his attention.
Mrs. G loved ALL her students, but at that place and time the person who needed her undivided attention was me. My life mattered to her, like the sheep matters to the shepherd. And that has made a great difference in my life.