I was having a particularly bad day. At the time, I was working at an After School Program which provided recreation and enrichment opportunities for students in Kindergarten to Fifth grade. I loved working with my Kindergarteners and First graders, but today, I was assigned to work with the Fourth and Fifth grade class. I hadn't spent too much time with this age group, and this was the first time I had them. It was rough. My disciplinary techniques that worked splendidly for my Kindergarteners and even Third graders did nothing to quell the more rambunctious, talkative, and disruptive Fourth and Fifth graders. Feeling defeated and at a loss, I silently prayed, "God, I feel like I am being trampled on and I have no idea what to do. I'm trying so hard to teach this lesson, but I can't even get them to listen. I tried to excite them with an activity but to no avail. Please be with me and this class!"
During their half hour recess break, I tried my best to strategize for the next period- what I could do better, how I could make the lesson more interesting, etc. As I continued to walk and monitor the grounds, one of my Kindergarteners broke my stride and muddled thoughts. With a huge grin on her face, she gleefully shouted, "Hi, Ms. C!" They had a hard time saying Carrell, so Ms.C was their nickname for me. I smiled and said just as loudly, "Why, hello there, Hailey!" She then lifted up her dainty arms and with much pride, Hailey brought to me a necklace of strung flowers and said, "Ms. C, this is for you! I made it myself!! Will you wear it?" "This is soo beautiful! Thank you very much, Hailey! I love it!" I responded with genuine amazement. As I lowered my head, she ornamented me with her garland of flowers. She left happily, and I watched her skip back to her friends with her ponytail swaying off in the distance.
In this moment, I understood that God was speaking to me. Although Hailey was unaware of it, God was acting in and through her. Through Hailey, He reminded me that I was not a complete failure. This was the first time I had worked with Fourth and Fifth graders, and I had to give myself some slack. Hailey represented all the Kindergarteners and First graders I had successfully learned to teach, care for, and even discipline. It took several months to finally feel competent with this age group. How could I have expected myself to take on older students without some trial and error especially on my first day working with them? Her sweet smile and garland of flowers were God's way of saying, "It's going to be ok. I'm here with you. See how appreciated you are? Take it easy on yourself and just do your best. You are loved!"
Many of us at the beginning of our walk with God often make the mistake of putting God in a shoe box that is only taken out to wear on Sundays. We only wear them at church, because that's where they belong...where God belongs. This, however, could not be further from the truth. God is greater than our neatly defined conception of Him. He is not just the God of Sundays but also, the God of every day and of every one. God can not be relegated to a pair of shoes that is only worn once a week, because truly, He can be found everywhere and in everything. Yes, God can speak to us in the Holy Mass and through Sacred Scripture, but these are not the only ways God chooses to speak to us.
Like my experience with Hailey, God can speak through others. He can speak through a sunset. He can speak through a song- secular or religious. He can speak through media- the news, TV shows, movies, etc. He can speak through anything around us so long as we are paying attention and continuing to be with Him in prayer.
How has God spoken to you this past week? What happened? What did you sense Him saying to you through this experience?
May you hear God's voice today and know that you are loved!