Saturday, January 17, 2009

Kimberly Elementary School

Kimberly Elementary School. That's where I got my primary-level education. (Well, if you don't count the year I went to Green Acres, but that's another story for another time.)

Anyway, Kimberly Elementary was a square, brick building with six grades crammed into four classrooms. The way they managed that was to put the "smart" 2nd graders into the 3rd-4th grade classroom; they put the "smart" 4th graders into the 5th grade classroom. No matter how smart the 1st graders were, they got stuck with the "dumb" 2nd graders. (There was no kindergarten in Kimberly--maybe that's the reason for all those "dumb" 2nd graders.) Sixth graders had a room all to themselves; probably because the 6th grade teacher was also the principal...You know what they say, "Absolute power corrupts absolutely."

When you walked through the front doors of the school, you found yourself in a wide, tall hallway with wooden floors that had been burnished to a dull brown from wax, dirt and chalk. The walls were ALL painted a puky shade of "peppermint," which looked more like scum than mint. In this hallway, the water fountains were on your right and the stairs on your left. These stairs led down to the basement, which contained the girls' and boys' bathrooms, the furnace room and the lunchroom.

From this lunchroom, the smell of Sister Lee's baking yeast rolls wafted up those stairs every day of the school week. Sister Lee went to the Kimberly Church of God too. This fact had its rewards--I believe I always got one of the biggest yeast rolls.

But, the most delicious thing I got from Sister Lee was the knowledge that she loved me. Every day of the school week, as she ladled out heaping helpings of mashed potatoes, stuck-together mounds of sticky, white rice--all of these loaded up with gravy--and, of course, those delicious yeast rolls, she would say, "Hey, baby, Sister Lee loves you." Even though she said this to every single child who went through that line, you somehow felt that you were special."

And, I just knew she meant every word. After all, she woke up at 5 a.m. every school-day morning to make sure the poorest children in Kimberly--the ones who qualified for "free lunches" (and breakfasts)--started their school day with a hot breakfast. She never settled for just any old breakfast--her breakfast line included homemade biscuits, hot oatmeal, bacon, sausage, eggs. It was the breakfast of champions. Sister Lee's breakfasts were so delicious that, even those of us whose daddys were too proud to let us get "free lunch," would beg our mamas for the 25 cents that got you a "ticket" to Sister Lee's breakfast buffet.

These days, whenever I hear really smart people try to explain the differences between grace and works, I find myself wishing that they could have gone through Sister Lee's lunch line. You see, she didn't wake up at 5 a.m. every morning for that pitiful little salary she made. (If she had, we would have had old, dry toast, and no one would have begged their mamas for 25 cents.) Now that I'm "grown," I realize that Sister Lee wasn't trying to earn love. She did what she did because she loved--she simply loved Jesus--and her sweet love for Him just flowed out on us. And, even though some of us were "the chubby ones" because of Sister Lee's "love," we were also the blessed ones.

I don't know for sure what the "wedding supper" of Christ and His Church is going to look like, but I sure hope it includes Sister Lee's yeast rolls (and maybe even some of her mashed potatoes with gravy).

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!...This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another....Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth...We love because He first loved us." (1 John 3:1, 11, 18; 4:19)

1 comment:

  1. Lisa. You have no idea what your words about my grandmother means to me. I have been flooded with some many memories after reading this. And I hate to burst your bubble, but I believe Granny loved me the best. Just kidding. She truly loved all us kids the same. We were her angels. Thanks for the memories. Mike Lee