Like a herd of cattle, they came. Children of all sizes, shapes and colors plunged out of yellow buses and charged through the doors of the classroom. Six boys and one girl huddled around my table and stared at me expectantly.
To be honest, I didn't want to be here. Though I wanted to teach Sunday school, teaching bus kids wasn't my idea of doing much good. Most came from unstable homes, and it wasn't unusual for the entire hour to be spent trying to break up fights. Frankly, my heart broke a little each Sunday. It was no fun. I questioned at every turn my decision to teach in this capacity.
As I began the lesson this particular morning, the children fidgeted with great fervor. Before long, Sharla interrupted.
"I'm ready to work the workbook," she announced.
"Pardon me?" I hated it when they interrupted me.
"Ain't it time to do our workbook?"
"After the lesson," I said. With a strained voice, I attempted to regain my momentum.
"Stop kicking me!" Sharla again, glaring at Eric, who looked guilty.
I tapped the table. "Okay, guys," I said, rather loudly. "Let's finish up our story."
Suddenly, Ricardo blurted, "My daddy says there ain't no God."
"There is a God, Ricardo," I said. "And he loves you very much."
Michael raised his hand. At least there's one polite child among them, I thought, exasperated. "Yes, Michael?"
"My mama say she gonna give her kids away if we don't stop fussin' so much."
My pulse quickened. Nobody told me you needed a degree in psychology to teach second-graders. Not knowing anything else to do, I patted the boy's sagging shoulders, a terrible ache lodging in my throat. "I'm so sorry, Michael," I said, meaning it.1